Friday, May 2, 2014


Before I forget to give credit where it is due Thank you to John from Don't unplug your Hub. His post today got me to thinking about how things have dramatically changed over the years.

I was born in 1947, part of the post-war baby boom. At that time they still routinely put mothers to sleep to deliver babies. We have since decided that pre-delivery enemas (pardon me to the weak of stomach) are not necessary to a healthy birth. Shaving of delicate places by a nurse with inch long pointed fingernails is not practiced any more. Many birthing processes have been tried but natural childbirth, with an assist from pain medication seems to be the norm now.

Radio was the home entertainment for most people. If your home was not connected to electrical systems (and many were not) crystal radios could be used to pick up the ball game on the week-ends. A wire connected to the screen door as a ground improved reception immensely. Late at night after most stations were shut down by FCC regulations, some of the big radio stations could kick up their power. Then we could get things like the Grand Ole Opry. And WLS in Chicago played rock and roll.

Transistor radios were invented so we could carry our music with us. We could sing along and dance along even if we were at the park. That is if the reception in the area was good enough. We had favorite disc jockeys who introduced us to the newest songs and singers as well as playing music that we already loved. But we had no choices except to call in to make a request. And we also sang along with the commercial jingles. They were catchy tunes.

Then along came FM radio stations. You would not automatically lose reception on the car radio if you went through a short underpass like you would with AM radio. Now there are station networks like Sirius XM. You can choose whatever you wish to hear. It could be music, comedy, or sports. And with no commercials.

Record players allowed us to listen to our favorites over and over. Some of us had extensive record collections. There were LP's (long playing records) which eventually were called albums. They contained several songs on each side. They were played at a speed of 33 1/3 RPM's.

There were older 78 RPM records. I discovered some great music on those. They had one to three songs on each side. 78's were even more breakable than the albums.

The most popular records were the 45's. They are the small 7 inch in diameter records you most often see in the old teenage type movies. For 45 cents we could buy the latest hit single with another song by the artist on the flip side. With any luck it would be a hit too. The 45's are the records that needed the insert to keep it on the spindle centering the record on the phonograph player.

Then along came tape recorders. They were clumsy affairs. One reel of tape would be placed on it's spindle. The tape itself would be threaded through the heads of the machine and connected to another reel that would neatly wind up the tape so it could be played again. Then came tape players that not only recorded and played but they did not require the reels. Wow. How handy.

For the car there were 8-track tapes. Basically they were albums in a small (at the time) plastic box. You inserted them into the 8-track player and listened to the music.

Once everyone who was interested had invested in 8-tracks and 8-track players for their houses and cares along came cassettes. They were like little reel to reel players enclosed in a plastic case. The case fit into the cassette player to play the music. They took up less room than 8-tracks. The major problem with cassettes was that the tape was exposed at the point where the player heads came into contact in order to play the tape. Often the tape would tangle in the player. It could be necessary to break the tape to get it out. Once it was broken it could not be played ever again.

Now we have CD's and CD players. CD is short for compact disc. Again it needs it's own player. But now we could burn our own CD's. We could copy music from CD's we had purchased. We could even "pirate" music from the internet if we chose to. And the CD's we burned ourselves could hold a lot more songs.

But to improve things even more we now have portable media players like iPod. We can download music to them, stick them in a pocket, place the earbuds in our ears, and have hundreds of songs at our disposal.

There was another improvement over the radio. Television made it's entrance. TV had been around for several years before it was introduced at the 1939 World's Fair. Envisioned uses for it were as military tools and for closed-circuit broadcasts of sporting events.

After World War II television stations began to broadcasting programs to a limited audience. The audience was limited because most people thought TV was a fad that would never replace the reality of radio.

Little by little more households bought televisions. Television networks were formed with regular programming available.

The first televisions were large cabinet style wooden cases full of the tubes necessary to operate it. The viewing screen was so small. The pictures on the screen were black and white. After all movies were still being made in black and white too. (Color movies were made but so expensive to make that it was a budget thing. Besides many movie theaters were not equipped to show movies in color.)

I remember the first TV my parents bought. There was much to-do about carrying it in. Then the antenna had to be installed on the roof and connected to the TV. Then it had to be adjusted for the best possible picture.

Television at that time was not a 24 hour affair. In the morning it signed on with a prayer and the national anthem. At night it signed off at midnight with a prayer with a showing of the Flying Blue Angels then the national anthem.

Programming consisted of a lot of variety shows in the evening. There were occasional plays performed live. During the day were soap operas, news programs, and game shows.

Before and after school were children's programs. Cowboys were the order of the day. Saturday's had cartoons in the morning for children. Sports programming was available for fathers who were home for the weekend from work. Sunday nights were for family programs.

But we wanted color TV. One day my father came home with a contraption to give us programming in color. It was a piece of plastic that was colored blue at the top clear in the middle and green at the bottom. Stretched across the TV screen it gave sky at the top (even if the scene was indoors) and grass at the bottom (even if there was snow).

Transistor circuits began to replace tubes in the televisions. The screens were larger even if the television console was not. With fewer tubes it became easier to build new sets with the capability to receive color programming. More programs were being broadcast in color. Now they are all color.

Televisions changed their looks too. The screens were larger. The consoles were smaller. Finally tubes were a thing of the past.

Televisions were a luxury. In most homes it was located in the living room. The family who could receive more than one of the three networks might argue over which programs to watch. Dad always had the final say.

Now we have flat screen TV's. They snuggle up nicely close to the wall on a small table. Or you can even mount them on the wall like a painting. Surround sound makes it seem like you are in the middle of all the action.  Being a baseball fan I love that. I actually prefer to watch the games on TV to going to the ballpark. I get a good seat and my beverages do not cost nearly as much.

There are now more than just the three major networks. And with cable TV the theory is that there are hundreds of channels and programs to choose from. All in color.

It is unusual to have only one television set in the home. There is a central television in the living room. There may be one in each bedroom. Some homes even have one in the kitchen to enable Mom to watch as she cooks

Telephones were another form of communication. The first ones were a box mounted on the wall. There was a receiver that was held to your ear as you talked into the mouthpiece that was part of the main box. To get the attention of the operator you would twist the crank on the side. Then she could connect you to the party you wished to speak to. And yes my family had one.

Time moves on. Telephones became smaller. They could be mounted on the wall or even set stylishly on a table. Either way the ear piece and mouthpiece were now one and the rest of the phone stayed put. Some homes even had extension phones so you would not have to get up and run to the phone in say the middle of the night.

These phones were black and rather large. No longer did you have to dial the operator to make a local call. There was a rotary dial on the phone. Simply dial the number of the party and you would be connected.

Of course long distance calls still needed the assistance of the operator. There was one, ONE, telephone company. All calls went through their system.

It became the "in" for teenagers to have a phone of their own in their rooms. That meant a separate phone line and a separate number. It also meant phones in new colors to appeal to teenagers. Colored phones also meant that they could be ordered to blend in with the colors of the room decor.

New telephone companies formed and broke the monopoly enjoyed by the original company. Prices were supposedly more competitive.

Cordless telephones became the rage. It was so much easier to carry the phone with you throughout the house than to be tied to a small area by stationary phones.

Wealthy people began to use mobile phones in their cars and on their boats. Mobility had begun to be important. Many people began to carry beepers. When the device would beep you could look at the number that called you and call back.

Pay telephones could be found in a lot of places. If you were out and needed to call home a nickel, then a dime, then a quarter, and so on, would allow you to make a quick call. As more mobile devices were being used telephone booths became fewer. They are now a thing of the past.

Then came cell phones. You could keep your phone on your person at all times to call and receive calls at any time. Very convenient.

I resisted getting a cell phone for a long time. I do not want to be that connected to anybody. But I also recognize that it can be a valuable tool and even a safety device so I have one now. I hardly ever use it but it is available when I might need it.

In many families every member of the family has a call phone. Parents can contact their children at any time. I am sometimes disturbed when I see people who have to have the phone to their ear at all times but I guess that is what they like.

It seems like the new culture is based arounf cell phones. There is even a whole new language evolving for use on the phone. Ah, progress.

Wow. Just three technologies I have seen change dramatically in my life. And I got to watch it happen. But I have just begun. Next time I'll try to not be so long-winded.


  1. Emma, as I am only a couple of year younger, born in 1949' I remember all of these although I never got into 8 track tapes. I did however have every other item mentioned and can recall the first TV I bought, a 13-inch color portablel and it when my parents still had a B&W console set.

    1. Just wait until my next post to see how much you recognize. This is fun but it does make me feel old.