What We Wrought

His Masters Voice
In the last quarter of the 19th century — USA-centrically, call it 139 years ago — we began to experience having the sound of strangers’ voices in our lives, even in our homes. Not just voices, but music from concert halls and clubs. And other sounds, too: the clip-clop of horse feet, the slam of a door, a gun-shot. Less than 100 years go, those sounds went electric, and we never looked back.

At the beginning of the 20th century, we started another love affair — this one with moving images on rectangular screens, a dance of light and shadow, windows to imaginary worlds. Or windows to recorded memories or news of distant places. When sound went electric, those moving images took voice and spoke and sang. No one alive in our society today remembers a time when moving images weren’t woven into our lives.

Here, now, into the 21st century, in an age of streaming video and music, from cloud to your pocket device (with its high-resolution display and built-in video camera), I can’t help but be impressed by how far we’ve come.

The iPad

A long way, indeed.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

18 responses to “What We Wrought

  • rung2diotimasladder

    This reminds me of some funny scenes from Downton Abbey when they first experience electricity and telephones. Their reactions to all this technology are pretty similar to ours now—some are fascinated and excited, others…not so much. Imagine thinking of electricity in the house as “too bright” or not knowing how to use a telephone.

    I often imagine how much fun it would be to go back in time and show someone a computer. Think of how they’d freak out! It’d be too much fun.

    Airplanes too. That one gets me every time.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      No doubt you’d get burned as a witch! Arthur Clarke, one of the three “Fathers of Science Fiction” coined three laws, the third of which is: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

      There are a number of (science fiction) stories involving exactly what you suggest (going back to Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. And the reverse, of people from much older times transported to modern ones). It’s a fun plot line, for sure! Hilarity often abounds!

      Speaking of hilarity, airplanes. Yes, metal tubes flying. Hilarious! (Even knowing exactly how they pull it off doesn’t ruin the joke; it’s still a gut-splitter.)

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I guess I’m a witchy woman. 🙂

        Yeah, metal tubes flying through the air…that’s nuts. Getting inside one, while it goes up in the air? Even nuts-er.

        Sometimes I look out the window during take-off (I always get the window seat) and wonder why we’re not screaming our heads off. I’m not actually afraid of flying, but it seems strange that I’m not. I SHOULD be! It’s crazy! I’ve also wondered what would happen if the airplane had bigger windows or windows on the floor. That would be terrifying. (You’d probably love that though, wouldn’t you?)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I’ve always thought Wonder Woman’s transparent plane would be awesome! XD

        I was the same way — always wanted the window seat (because I’ve always loved flying and especially loved take-off and landing). I’ve always been fascinated by maps and aerial and satellite photos, so being lower during take-off and landing gives better sightseeing. One fun thing about skydiving is you never (except in very special cases requiring special gear and sometimes special training) go above 14,500 feet (the highest possible without oxygen), so the sightseeing is wonderful. (Especially on the way down! XD )

        But then I went through a phase where my company was flying me around a lot (as in a couple of flights a week sometimes), and it got to be like riding a bus. Convenience became important, so I started getting aisle seats just for easy bathroom access and being able to stretch my legs in the aisle.

        Now, with all the TSA silliness, I’m glad I don’t have to fly anymore! 🙂

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Everyone seems to want the aisle seat. I guess that’s a good thing for window people. (Plus, having short legs makes it almost a crime to take an aisle seat. It makes no difference to me.)

        I would hate flying that much. I flew to OKC every month or two to see my mom, and I felt like that was a lot. I can’t imagine doing it twice a week. That would be awful.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        On the one hand it made me feel special — the guy they needed to fly to places and do a job only I was trained for, whoo hoo. Nice ego boost, but the other hand is the time on airplanes, in airports and hotels, rental cars, and strange cities.

        The downside of that aisle seat is that when they open the doors I usually just sit and read my book waiting for the cattle drive getting off to end. Then I walk out like I owned the plane. 😀

        The aisle seat usually means I have to let someone out before I sit back down. 😮 But it also means it’s easy to stand up and stretch or get into the overhead or even just take a walk. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the idea of taking at walk at 500 MPH!

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Oh you’re THAT guy (the special one) clogging up the aisle! 😉 I’m usually the one ready to push people out of my way to get off. I’ll even help people get things out of the overhead compartment just to rush them along…which is funny since I’m usually the shortest one on the plane, excluding children. Plus, I can stand up under the compartment in most cases, although sometimes I have to rest a knee on my seat. That’s my signal—get out of my way! I think this has something to do with having a few close-call layovers and one missed flight. I get nervous even if I have hours to spare.

      • Bob Wilson (the fool himself)

        I came home from school in 1947, and my mother asked me did I notice any difference in the house, I didn’t, not for the life of me could I see any alterations. if my mother had tidied up maybe that would have made a big difference, then she told me – we had electric lights- we had been lit up, and I never noticed it. Only years later did I learn about Thomas Alva Edison, and the bulb experiments he made, and Fulton Street, New York power generating plant, and Menlo Park, and it never sank in what a great guy he was, and he invented sound recording using silver foil and a needle, and that convinced me to love the guy, to worship him. so I travelled 3650 miles to New Jersey to see his workshop, and travelled a similar distance to Fort Myers, Florida to see his home, and I;ve stood over his swimming pool, and dreamed the dream, walked the footseps of “My Man”, and I still take electricity and the talkies for granted, and sometimes I take Hollywood and America for granted, until 9-11, then it becomes up close and personal, and I recharge my batteries with hate at whoever would do such a thing to the Land of Edison, Thomas Alva Edison.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yep. It helps to stop and look back sometimes. I’ve been in that workshop (oh, so long ago), but never to the Florida home.

  • Steve Morris

    Just as interesting I think is the democratization of the creation of media. It’s no longer necessary to have expensive equipment to record sounds, capture images or make a video. Almost everyone now has the ability to do this. Even my 12 year old son has his own YouTube channel!

    This doesn’t necessarily raise the quality of what is produced (!), but it increases diversity. More importantly, it allows everyone to have a voice and to make a contribution.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      The downside is that we have to learn how to manage all those voices and all that content. It’s created a river that’s fast, deep, and wide. It pushes history away with breath-taking speed and it draws the history horizon damn near into the present — yesterday is ancient history, now.

      Plenty of upside, no question, but it’s another hugely powerful tool we’ve invented, and it’s not anywhere near under our control now. (“WWW” stands for the Wild, Wild Web!) As proof, I can cite spammer and hackers or just Donald Trump (who is a direct result of the interweb).

      And, no, it absolutely doesn’t raise the quality bar. If anything, it clutters the world with so much chaff it becomes increasingly difficult to find the wheat anymore.

      For one example, I used to be able to easily find the answer to almost any technical question. Now, the bulk of hit results are other people asking the same question or people making best-guesses at the answer. Others repeat those best-guesses, which are often wrong, and so the wrong information takes on a life of its own as others repeat it.

      The signal-noise ratio of the interweb is plumb awful! It’s getting to the point I restrict my interweb world mostly to authoritative sources (Wiki and EDUs) and science blogs by scientists. And lectures by scientists on YouTube — some of those are awesome.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        “I used to be able to easily find the answer to almost any technical question. Now, the bulk of hit results are other people asking the same question or people making best-guesses at the answer.”

        That is so annoying! It drives me crazy. And if you’re like me, you end up reading that crap. What a waste of time. I gotta learn to say no to all forums. You’d think the grammatical errors and typos would get me to turn away immediately, but I can’t seem to do it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, it is known to be addictive (in the same sense as, say, gambling can be). Tearing away requires effort and time. (For example, it’s been maybe a month now since I’ve watched CNN or MSNBC or FNC. Granted, I got to the point of being repelled and went with that feeling, but for a while it was really hard to stop watching. Now that it’s been a while, I’m glad I’m not doing that and don’t miss it.)

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Good for you! I’m glad you managed to do it. Some people get attached to their phones and computers and whatnot and go on these retreats in which those gadgets aren’t allowed. They seem to get a lot out of the vacation. I imagine it’s the same for you, especially given the poison of politics lately.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        And it got boring as it became clear it would end up Clinton vs. Trump. Which is now pretty much a certainty. It’ll get even more interesting as those two go head-to-head.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah, I’m bored by that duo. Why couldn’t it have been Bernie? Nuts!

  • ~ Sadie ~

    Enjoyed the post, WS! I am impressed, as well, with how far technology has taken us. As a communications major – the benefits & ramifications are incredibly intriguing! Needless to say, I am always studying 😉 I could easily write a master’s thesis with all the different mediums and their effects immediately & over time.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, storytelling has a fascinating progression in society!

      Storytellers have always leveraged technology as best they could. Ancient stages had crude machines (hence the term deus ex machina); man-made light goes way back (hence the term limelight); electricity opened huge doors of sound, light, and color. And, of course, early photography, going back to camera obscura, leads to film, television, and internet videos.

      I’ve always been fascinated by storytelling modes. Spoken words, written words, plays, television, movies — there are spectrums of immersion and reality and style…

      So, yeah, I know totally what you mean! 😀

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