Before a technology really makes it big, we, as a society, struggle to understand exactly what it is and how to use it. And now, thanks to technology, we have the embarrassing news reports to prove exactly how much we didn't "get" concepts like The Internet, Remote Controls and even Compact Discs, back when they were still new -- and they're all hilarious. Enjoy this trip through memory lane and marvel at the astounding inventions of the 20th century.
Collection Photo: DreamWorks Productions
The Internet - What Is It?
Embedded to your left, we have a report from KRON, a local bay area news station, about what it'll be like in "the f*ture" reading newspapers off of screens instead of paper. The very first line of the report itself is amazing:
"Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee and turning on your home computer to read the day's paper. It's not as far fetched as it may seem."
Well, back in the dark days before the internet (1981), this seemed like a completely impossible, impractical and alien concept. And hey, back then, it really was. Reading your paper on green print, or even black on white, off of their Commodores would probably hurt their eyes and backs after a while. They didn't have iPads, iPhones or laptops where they could conveniently read their daily news.
Also, online newspapers were a closed, exclusive network of about a dozen papers linked together with someone typing everything from the regular paper-paper onto a word processor, then sending it out across the network. But who actually subscribed to this?
Well, back then having your own home personal computer was enough to get you on the news. So, they found the guy in town that had one and went to his house, asking him questions about how he consumes his news. Interestingly enough, and the opposite of what it is now, the guy who's one of the only notable people to explore, use and master a new technology was old. Like, old old.
He had white hair.
What the hell happened? My grand parents still use two hands and reading glasses to change the channel on the remote.
Anyway, as Richard Halloran, a home computer user, says in the video, the primary use of the system is to "have the option of not only seeing the newspaper on the screen but also..." (get this) "...we can copy it. So anything that we're interested in we can go back in again and copy it onto paper and save it."
Because saving things from digital formats to hard copies is exactly what makes things easier to save. What an awesome time to live.
It's really quite a feat to see a news report like this and not laugh, but really it's more interesting to see how far we've come and how dramatically our lives have changed. It's funny how there's a whole new universal lingo for everything. If you're not connected to technology, you're not a part of the world anymore. You're "out of the loop".
So, here's another fun example of exactly how "out of the loop" we all used to be in this report about computer viruses. The first part is the most golden.
And just to really drive in how foreign of a concept the internet was even in 1994, here's a clip of the today show's Bryant Gumbel almost angrily trying to find out what an "@" is and what, exactly, the internet really was. Even though he was basically a grown up Steve Urkel, he still dismissed technology as something for nerds, as people used to.
Nowadays, if you don't know technology, you're living your life wrong. Especially if you're in entertainment.
The best part is how frustrated he gets at the fact that he doesn't know what an "@" means and how to read an internet address which, apparently, the network had enough foresight to establish. As always, the news was just a little bit behind reality.
VCRs Are the Next Hula Hoop
"I hear [that VCRs] are the next biggest craze since the hula hoop" - Barbara Walters, 1984
VCR stands for Video Cassette Recorder but for many of us living in a world of HD-television and DVRs, imagining owning a VCR seems like a waste of money and time. In the video, we visit Barbara Walters circa 1984 as she lisps her way through telling us just how life-changing and great a VCR really is.
Editor Video Magazine editor Doug Garr even states in the video that he thinks "it's almost an appliance now. [The VCR] is going to move into the necessity stage, like a television."
The real interesting and groundbreaking part of the technology shift at that time was that people were able to, for the first time, watch a film or television show at their own leisure. People were buying them by the tens of thousands every day when before this "revolution" it was unheard of.
Complete with a creepy video store clerk saying he knows, based on what they rent, exactly when his customers are going to have sex.
A mom holding a baby that says she watches up to 4 movies a week says "It's a babysitter that you can't beat" since when she puts a tape on she can sleep while her toddler is entertained by the VCR's video tapes.
Here's a look into all the intricate rivalries and debates within the VCR industry in the past, to only show to us how meaningless it all is to us today:
Video Games: What is Pac-Man? Should It Be Banned for Minors?
Defender and Pac-Man are the focus of a 1982 news report where the plot of each is described.
Chicago NewsCenter5's Barry Bernson takes an in-depth look into the new and intriguing artform that was Defenders and PacMan, an inevitability when "the TV married the computer."
He states that "Defender is prized for its nifty sound and visual effects." See what he means at 0:55.
The greatest part of this news report is the fact that at some point, state officials, as Barry Bernson says at the end, wanted to ban video games for anyone under the age of 18.
Microwave Oven: Nobody Will Ever Cook On a Stove Again
Believe it or not, there was a time when people feared that people would stop cooking altogether. Everything was going to change and we would all be eating instant space food. The cause of threat? The microwave oven.
*villain music and dramatic frowns, a woman faints in the background*
In THIS news article taken from Google's old scans of newspapers that begs the question "why the hell do libraries even exist anymore?", the newspaper was reporting the invention of the microwave oven. How scared of change people were at the time is amazing.
When the microwave oven first started being marketed to Americans in 1947, women were called to "find another way to a man's heart" because it was declared that "the art of cooking [was] soon to be obsolete." If only that were the case now, some women would be rejoicing; "namely, my ex-wife!" *Fixes tie* Tough room.
The first commercial wave microwave oven in the world was called "Radarange" and it was created by Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer who stumbled upon this invention by accident. After securing a patent and licensing it, the first "Radarange" hit the market in 1947 and predictions of revolutionary breakthroughs in the kitchen abounded.
As one 1946 newspaper article boasts, "The woman who knows how to cook will like the Radarange because it will cut her 'kitchen time' from hours to minutes. She can place roasts and hams, which now requires several hours cooking, on a revolving 'spit' and serve them ten minutes later. Perfect cakes, uniformly light throughout, can be baked in a minute or two, and raw vegetables will be done in seconds."
You can read the rest of the article here.
Though people in the 40s were awfully excited about the whole convenience thing that came along with the scientific achievement, nowadays, two minutes and fifteen seconds is still a pretty damn long time to wait for a Hot Pocket. I mean, it's 2011, we're busy at work and have important Facebook pages to reload.
Embedded here, also, is a short commercial/report/documentary comparing conventional oven cooking to cooking over a fire to cooking in the stone age.
"This is cooking with a microwave: cooking without heat."
According to all of these reports, food comes out better, less burnt and a lot tastier if you just make it with a microwave.
Something they kind of have on all of us here in the 21st century is the advent of having huge microwaves with rotisseries on them. What the hell ever happened to that as a norm?
Remote Control: The Most Complicated Convenience Device Ever
The Remote Control used to be more complicated than setting the clock on your microwave.
It's no wonder that the word "couch potato" is a recent term and not an old adage. People before the 1950s actually watched TV without a remote, as I'm sure all of your elders have told you about already. That means no channel surfing, no immobility for hours, no perfect modern-day relaxation/fattening and, most importantly, no DVRs.
Instead, they had to sit up close to the TV to manually push buttons to change the channels or lower the volume. That, or walk back and forth from their seat. It's a real toss up on which one's worse.
So, you can imagine the great fanfare that came with the invention of the remote control. In all its black and white glory, the video on the right exhibits the grandeur of the 500 pound-looking remote control meant to make 1950s life so much easier. See the brick for yourself at 0:49, complete with awesome narration.
The amount of programming and complication that went with these early TVs is amazing. It's great when technology actually scales back and makes things simpler to move forward.
When I get home, I'm going to hug my remote.
The Compact Disc: You Can Listen to Them While Racing Dune Buggies
First of all, look at the record collector's mullet!
These things that people used to call "Compact Discs" which most of us currently use as coasters, really expensive one-time-use mp3 uploading tools or convenient stencils for when we need to draw a perfect circle used to blow people's minds.
They weren't a series of grooves made on a strip or a vinyl record, they were digital, and therefore "better" (although most vinyl snobs will tell you that Records actually have the superior sound quality.)
These "miniature platinum albums" or "digital wonders" and the fact that at some point these were a more convenient way to do anything is absolutely amazing. The real thing that CDs brought to us was the inability to listen to an album all the way through which I now, unfortunately, currently possess.
The biggest selling point of CDs was the fact that they play an hour (or more) of music.
Interviewed in this video is the manager of the ONLY CD MANUFACTURER IN THE U.S. at the time.
As an added bonus, here's a news report from the early 1980s where a news reporter goes around asking people what they think "it" is (while showing people a compact disc.)
Trolling: Like Those Dolls from the 90s
When it comes to out of date news reports, there are few better places you can turn to than Fox News and their recent (like the last year or so) news stories on internet trends. No matter how "into" the web the mainstream media and world gets, you always have that basic disconnect between what's popular and who's actually reporting the news.
Enter the word "Troll". Dating themselves back about 15 years, the writers of this news broadcast decided to start out with a familiar frame of reference for anyone that's wondering what a "troll" is by mentioning the old "Russ" troll dolls.
Sure, they pretty much explain what a "troll" is, but they really just could not have done it in a more half-assed, out-of-touch way
The Mobile Phone: A Huge, Pocket-Held Device
Our mobile phone or cell phone--or actually, as we usually just say, "cell"--is probably one of the greatest necessities in our personal lives. But there was a time when people had corded phones. Think back...ahhh, yes, that canary yellow one in the kitchen. Remember pulling the cord as far away from people and closing the door for those private phone calls you thought you had?
Yeah, we were all culprits of the "immobile" phone at one point in our lives.
But none of us looked like this idiot guy on BBC (ok, he might be a fun guy if he didn't insist that we go along with his role playing) who tries to seem unaware of the novelty behind him walking around with a mobile phone. Of course, the whole point of the video is to show how new and radical the concept is. We're supposed to be impressed...but we're not.
Because that mobile phone looks huge and still has a cord connected to a box you still have to carry around.
And now, the first ever cell phone ad (notice the luxury, the styles, the beach, the sunset, the sexy elevator music, and the couple who really should've made more specific plans.)