Any sufficiently antique technology…

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Maybe staged, but still amusing:

Update — I should add that the dining room at the restaurant last night was decorated with shelves full of antique devices, including telegraph units, sewing machines, typewriters, and a transistor radio.


  1. Laura Morland said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 2:44 am

    Maybe staged… or maybe not, as the girl with the chin-length brown hair consistently showed more knowledge of old technology than the rest. (I'm curious why she alone has apparently received more exposure than the other children — does she have grandparents who still play "humongous disks," aka 33 rpm records?)

  2. maidhc said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 3:07 am

    There's a school near here which is an arts magnet school. It has a mural celebrating various types of artistic expression, that was created some time ago. One of the things it depicts is 35 mm film, which I'm sure would be a complete mystery to most of the students.

    A couple of years ago I was out shooting with my 1952 Argus C3 when I got in conversation with some young people, and one of them asked "Can you still get memory cards for that?" Yes, you can still get 35 mm film, and we still have a place that develops it. (Please stay in business, Henry!)

  3. George said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 3:18 am

    Much as warning signs at level crossings still use images of steam trains, the 'telephone' concept is still quite commonly expressed using an image of a rotary phone, so I reckon the recognition factor will remain pretty strong for many years.

  4. Laura Morland said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 3:54 am

    While we're on the topic, it's amusing to watch this PSA, presumably delivered to movie theaters nationwide, created to INTRODUCE the population to rotary telephones:

  5. Laura Morland said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 4:09 am

    The first dial telephones seemed to confound early users as much as do smart phones today. Some time after the new phones were introduced, AT&T apparently found it necessary to produce this instructional film.

    Just as laws tell historians what people in the past were doing that they shouldn't, this film beautifully demonstrates how the new technology was being improperly used, causing some people to be "inconvenienced, and probably even irritated:"

  6. Michael Watts said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 4:47 am

    Sometimes laws tell historians what people in the past were doing. Sometimes you get laws that were enacted more to make a statement than because people were breaking them, like the laws against incest. Sometimes you get laws on the model of "We should make it illegal to crash the Earth into Jupiter." "You can't do that with the Earth." "But what if you could some day — we'd be visionaries!"

  7. David Morris said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 6:22 am

    An ESL textbook I'm using these days has a 'stereo' in the chapter on home furnishings. The chapter on 'places around the neighborhood' has 'pay phones', and the students were utterly unable to tell me where on campus some payphone are. Even 'CD players' now seem quaint.

  8. Ellen K. said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 6:44 am

    Once upon a time we literally dialed phones. Now we press buttons and still call it dialing.

  9. S Frankel said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 7:00 am

    We still call audio recording "taping," noun form: "tape." Certainly this is ubiquitous on NPR, at least. My impression is that video recording isn't commonly referred to this way.

  10. S Frankel said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 7:43 am

    Oh, blah, just watched the thing, and I think it's staged. When I was growing up, I saw a lot of old technology on tv – cartoons from the 50s were common 20 years later, and kids today (sample size: one) are still familiar with Wile E Coyote.

  11. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 8:01 am

    It's certainly staged in the sense that the kids knew they were playing to the camera. Whether or not their reactions were scripted and/or rehearsed is a different question.

  12. tony in san diego said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 9:19 am

    It is kind of like the filmic convention of showing broadcast "snow" on a malfunctioning TV screen…even though digital screens don't work that way any more.

  13. Bean said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 9:37 am

    Kids don't use bananas as pretend phones anymore, they use anything rectangular of about the right proportion. Calculators. Decks of cards.

    As for dialing – and phones – these so-called "phones" are barely used for voice calls anymore, but they do almost everything else imaginable, so sometime in the future people will ask, "Sheesh, I wonder why this thing is called a phone anyway?" and trivia buffs will know that phone is short for telephone because it used to be a novel idea that you could talk to someone from a distance, and the original ones did only that.

  14. Coby Lubliner said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 9:44 am

    How about "album" to mean a collection of recorded musical pieces? Before LPs, there were actual bound albums holding a number of sleeves, each holding a 78.

  15. Sili said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 10:20 am

    It's hardly fair to judge the kids, when the objects are so decontextualised.

    A typewriter without a piece of paper?

    A record without the record player?

    A disconnected phone?

    Were there even a tape in the tape recorder?

  16. KeithB said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    From the "Devil's DP Dictionary" by Stan Kelly-Bootle:

    Platen n. A supplementary print-spooling device which can retain, typically, 20 lines of print in the absence of paper.

    An Engineer writes: "The effectiveness of your platen as an emergency print buffer is much improved by cleaning it regularly with a soft, damp cloth…The suggestion that platens and printer ribbons should be of contrasting colors is being actively debated by 28 of the affected standards committees."

  17. Michael said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 10:47 am

    Do we still "hang up" the phone when we're done with a conversation, or more likely, with leaving a message?

  18. bks said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 11:10 am

    Totally staged. But a 60-something friend who writes for a trade magazine tells me that younger colleagues often hear pay-per-click when he says paperclip.

  19. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 11:29 am

    Bean: I suspect that not too far in the future both phones and texting as we know them will vanish. It's already the case that with a Bluetooth headset I can carry on a "text" (SMS) conversation by talking to my phone and having it read incoming messages aloud, without ever taking it out of my pocket.

    In a couple of decades, such headsets will likely include retinal projectors as a standard feature, onscreen keyboards will be largely obsolete, and voice interaction will be the normal mode of operation. Text-to-speech renderers will speak messages aloud with natural prosody, in the voice of whoever I'm talking to. So at that point we're essentially back to voice calls, and the "phone" itself disappears into a key fob or something similarly unobtrusive, barely deserving of a name.

  20. Bob Ladd said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

    @Michael: Yes, most voicemail replies (at least in the UK) tell you to record your message and then just "hang up" when you've finished.

    Along the same lines, the "return" key on a computer keyboard doesn't actually cause anything to return anywhere, unlike its predecessor on an electric typewriter.

  21. bks said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 12:38 pm

    Bob Ladd, it does return the cursor to the beginning of the line. It also does a line feed, moving to the next line.

  22. Rubrick said,

    May 27, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

    It's obviously heavily edited (and in my opinion marvelously done), but I don't think it's scripted. It's extremely hard to get young children to perform memorized dialog naturalistically (I'm looking at you, Anakin…). It's possible they were told "Pretend you don't understand this stuff", but I'm inclined to think not.

    [(myl) Yes, by "staged" I meant "edited", in the sense of recording 30 kids and using six or whatever… For example, how to hold a telephone handsets is something that many kids will have seen in the use of landlines, which still do exist in homes and businesses. But the rest is pretty believable.]

  23. Lars said,

    May 28, 2016 @ 9:43 am

    I don't know when I last saw a handset with a cord being used, land lines here (Sweden) are almost always used with cordless phones or headsets. But there are many versions for sale, so some people must want them. This one would surely add to the kids' confusion with the rotary dial if they'd seen it.

  24. Catanea said,

    May 28, 2016 @ 10:15 am

    Everyone and every site I have seen still says "footage" to refer to digitally recorded video "rushes" (I am always trying to find the right word[s])–what could be more correct, please, as there are no "feet" of recorded film…?

  25. Terry Hunt said,

    May 31, 2016 @ 9:43 am

    @ KeithB

    The Dictionary entry may have been intended as a joke, but I remember some (~45) years ago reading about the working practices of a prolific science fiction writer (possibly Henry Kuttner) who used to wind a sheet of paper tightly around his platen and stick it in place, so as to be able to type brief notes without having to cumbersomely insert an entire sheet of paper. I subsequently adopted this practice with my own portable manual.

  26. BZ said,

    May 31, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

    I think the title "album" is kind of misleading since albums still exist today, and the term is abstracted from the storage medium these days. As for why smartphones are called that, making and receiving calls is probably still the main thing you do on them. Certainly the designers think so, since receiving calls is the one thing you can do when your phone is locked or your battery is dying. You can also make emergency calls without a SIM or with a locked phone.

    I think the standard "telephone" icon these days (including on smartphones) is a (traditional) headset. Still pretty inaccurate to represent any type of cell phone, but not quite a rotary dial.

    Corded phones, at least in the US, if your landline is still a real (copper) landline (We have FIOS "digital voice" which is over the internet and only has a 2-hour power generator) your corded phone will still work in the event of a power outage, while cordless phones need a power source to operate.

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