How did people communicate with each other 100 years ago?

Asked by Barbara from Basingstoke


Hi Barbara from Basingstoke (I like that, it has a nice ring to it), 

I presume you mean to ask me how people communicated over long distances, because otherwise the answer would simply be ‘they talked to each other, just as they do today’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but please be more specific in future! (Kidding!)

OK, so 100 years ago, in 1914, the telephone was still in its infancy, relatively speaking. 99 years ago, Thomas Watson made the first coast-to-coast phone call in America, so that should give you some idea of where the telephone was, development wise.

However, the invention had been patented since 1876 and 1877 had seen the first long-distance phone call placed. But by and large, telephones were not an overly common part of people’s lives the way they are now.

More common was the telegraph, which had been knocking around for a while by then. People in official positions tended to use that, but it wouldn’t have been a fixture of regular people’s houses.

Far more common than telephone or telegraph was the postal service. In 1914, if you wanted to contact a friend, relative, or loved one, you wrote to them. The working classes were better educated than at any other time in history (up to that point) and literacy was improving (although it certainly wasn’t at the near-ubiquitous level of today). Letters took a long time to arrive by today’s standards, so they tended to be longer and more absorbing than, say, a Facebook chat is today. In fact, intellectuals, authors and politicians would often engage themselves in long-winded and exhaustive intellectual contests via thorough, essay-length correspondences.

Another option would have been to speak via mutual acquaintances. Literature of the period frequently involves friends using a mutual friend in order to carry on a long-distance discussion and it is my understanding that this was quite a common practice. Interestingly, this may very well have shaped the development of certain customs in society (such as ‘good manners’ vs. ‘bad manners’ regarding correspondence etiquette). With our communication methods of today being so vastly different, it remains to be seen how our society will come to reflect this. 

What’s the Walkie Talkie Tower

I am glad you asked. 20 Fenchurch Street, warmly known as the ‘Walkie Talkie Tower’ and less affectionately identified as the ‘Walkie Scorchie’ (yeah, that is a reputation that is by no means catching on), is a commercial skyscraper in central London. It is presently under development and is not supposed to be completed until next year. When all is said and done, it will eventually have cost some £200 Million to build.

The building gets its nickname because it is thought to resemble a walkie talkie (while, to be honest, I can’t see it myself). It is also called the pint, something that’s far more appropriate.

When done, the construction will stand at 160m in height and have 37 storeys. The ‘Walkie Talkie Tower’ was made by Rafael Viñoly (the guy who made the Tokyo International Forum, Carrasco International Airport and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, just in case you wondered) but will include a garden on the roof which will be open to the public.

The tower is the topic of some controversies since project’s beginning. In the beginning, it’s designed as being 200 metres high, but this was scaled back among worries that it’d obscure views of local landmarks Saint Paul’s Cathedral and also the Tower of London. Heritage groups complained further and there is a community inquest (which unsurprisingly found in favour of those guys with £200Million burning a hole in their wallets). The structure work has suffered some delays (as it had been initially supposed to be completed by 2011), but is now considered to be on schedule.

The tower made further headlines this year after motorists complained that it is acting like a large magnifying glass and ‘melting’ their cars. Actually, the firms in charge of that building’s development actually paid out £1000 in compensation to a Mr. Lindsay, after his vehicle was strictly damaged. Joint designers Land Securities and Canary Whorf Group issued the following announcement in light of those events, and Canary Whorf Group issued this announcement in light of their events, “As a gesture of goodwill, we have offered to meet the repair costs of his car. As responsible developers we take the issue seriously and are open to discussions with any individual or business that may have been adversely affected on a case by case basis.” That was nice of them.

That was good of them.

Shortly afterwards nearby car parks were closed until later in the year, when the sun’s heat is less extreme.

Interestingly, another structure of Rafael Viñoly’s, the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, also suffers from a daylight reflection problem, being nicknamed the ‘Vdara Death Ray’ by locals…

Also, I actually just read that a number of motorists are referring to the tower as the ‘Fryscraper’. Now that’s a reputation that may catch on.

What police earpieces are available to civilians

There are quite a few police earpieces on the market right now, Renée, so the high likelihood is that whatever you need, someone, somewhere will be selling it. If it helps, I’ll give you a bit of an overview…

If you’re in the market for an overt earpiece, or even if you fancy something a bit more discreet (like, um, a covert earpiece), you’ll certainly be able to find it on the World Wide Web. Police organizations across the world employ a wide variety of communications equipment, from ‘listen only’ devices to PTT (Push To Talk) earpieces and, as I said, a significant portion of that equipment is available for consumer purchase. … Read More

Tech We’d Like To See: The Dead Actor’s Studio

Imagine a young Marlon Brando starring alongside Johnny Depp, or Audrey Hepburn playing rival to Sandra Bullock as Marilyn Monroe stops by for a catty cameo.

Depending on how you look at it, this is either tantalizing ‘fantasy film making’ or else an utterly horrible, cash-in exercise in Hollywood excess. Whatever your viewpoint, it does seem likely that someone, somewhere will try this in the near future.

About three years ago, the news broke that George Lucas, the genius behind the ‘Star Wars’ merchandise (and a couple of related movies), was buying up the likeness rights to a plethora of iconic, yet deceased, leading men and famous actresses from Hollywood’s golden age. His plan? To use a concoction of existing footage, CGI and motion capture to create reasonable facsimiles of classic Hollywood stars and have them appear in future films, despite the notable handicap of being, well, dead. … Read More

Hotels, Holiday Resorts & Radios: A Match Maid in Heaven

The tourism industry is a big one, with various holiday seasons bringing in huge revenues around the world, year in, year out. In some cases, tourism profits are actually vital to the survival of small towns and resort areas, as well as major factors in the host country’s GDP.

Approximately 30 Million people visit the UK from all over the world each year (and we don’t even get nice weather!). Drawn to our many sites of cultural interest, even more of historical interest, or just a slice on English country life, these tourists are actually a considerable part of our economy. … Read More

Review: Razer Edge Pro tablet—insane performance that’s completely impractical

This is time that windows 8 makes its mark in the tablet marketplace. With the revolutionary nokia tablet, the microsoft surface 2 and a few others (counting the Razer Edge Pro, that’s basically what this post is all about). We will be seeing several more come through the door before next december. The Razer Edge Pro is a little disappointing in comparison to everything else that is out on the market (ipad, nexus 7) but read to the end to see the final assesment of the tablet. … Read More

Yahoo! Becomes ‘Yikes!’ as Recycled Accounts Relay Sensitive Information to the Wrong People

Yahoo!’s policy of recycling inactive email accounts has backfired on them, as new account owners are receiving personal emails that aren’t meant for them. 

The policy, active since June, means that Yahoo IDs and addresses are reassigned to a new user if left inactive for a year or more. But obviously both Yahoo! and some of its users got more than they bargained for. … Read More

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa Saves Over $100K in Annual Cost and Increases Staff Efficiency

With its newest resort opening its doors in early 2010, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa wanted to ensure that its new flagship property maintained and even exceeded its already high standards for guest satisfaction. Choosing MOTOTRBO over cellular push-to-talk technology, the hotel saved $14,000 per month in service fees, significantly improved response time to guest requests, and expects to achieve full return on investment within … Read More

What does jailbreak an ipad mean

Introduced in 2010, Apple’s iPad has been met with generally favourable reviews and sales, becoming far and away the most popular tablet computer on the world market. Sort of a ‘halfway house’ between and iPhone and Macbook, the iPad is an impressive gadget indeed. It runs a great many programs, and comes with up to 64GB of memory, not bad for a thing not much fatter than a short novel (and not much bigger, either). In fact, it has a great many appealing features.  … Read More

What we thought of the The iPad Air

In many ways, 2014 is going to be a lot like 2013, tablet-wise. Android tablets will continue to sell well, overly sensitive techie types will still cling to the idea that Windows 8 is simply ‘misunderstood’ (wilfully ignorant of the general consensus that it is complete and utter arse) and tablets will spring from the most unlikely of places (keep an eye out for the Co-Op ‘Tumblewumblebum’ and the ‘Zworfnik’). However, the trend least likely to change is that of an iPad leading the pack. We know this because Apple have just released the iPad Air…And it kicks major ass. … Read More