Tuesday, February 8, 2011
What Hath the Internet Wrought?
I have to admit - I don't know much about these harbingers of news. Being born in the last third of the 20th century, I'm sort of stuck between the present and the past. I grew up with a rotary phone but by the time I graduated high school in 1986 we made the switch to cordless. When I was born no one had a color TV but by the time I moved out no one even thought about B&W anymore. In my youth we saw the switch from LPs to tapes to CDs. I remember the advent of microwaves and VCRs as a young adult.
As for communication goes, though, there was still no cheap way to share news. Long distance was around, of course; I grew up in the "Reach Out and Touch Someone" era of Bell. This is how my family communicated, but since my dad was so much older (he'd be NINETY if he were alive today), he still had an aversion to long distance like so many others of his generation. "It's a complete waste of money!", he'd tell me, when I'd call home during college.
Still, telegrams seemed to be a cheaper alternative - at least they were 75 years ago. In the front cover of this book it says that the first 15 words cost 35 cents. ZOIKES! That's a lot of money, when you think about it, especially during the Depression!
But there's something so romantic about telegrams, isn't there? All of my experience with them is through pop culture - who doesn't remember Lisl using Rolf's telegram delivery as an excuse to spend time with him in The Sound of Music? How about the telegram Mr. Gower gets to inform him of his son's death from influenza in It's a Wonderful Life? If you're a fan of The Royal Tenenbaums, you'll remember that Richie Tenenbaum sends a ship-to-shore telegram to Eli Cash proclaiming his love for his adopted sister Margot. I love the use of that radiogram so much that when I found one at the Paper Flea Market I had to snag one for myself. :D