When it comes to technology, it seems we are always adjusting. I guess people even before electronics had adjustments to make in life, but I would suppose that they didn't have so many "adjustments" as people do today. I don't remember a time before electronics, because we had radio "in my day." Radio is electronics, even though in the 1920s through the 1950s radio relied on glass vacuum tube technology rather than transistor and microprocessor technology such as we have today. But radio was a far bigger and better thing in the 1940s than it is today.
Today the radio stations seem to be mostly music and horseplay and whoop-dee-doo about nothing. But radio in the earlier times was just about everything television is today, without the pictures on the screen. We got Grand Ole Opry, we got national and world and local news, we got great cultural programs like "The Firestone Hour," we got sports events, we got soap operas and great drama, we got comedy like "I Love Lucy," "Our Miss Brooks," "Ozzie and Harriet," "Red Skelton" and so on.
The programming quality was probably better than today's TV programming, even with it's 1,000 plus channels to choose from. We didn't really miss not having pictures, since we didn't know that seeing pictures would someday become a reality. Anyway, many of the radio personalities used words in a way that created the pictures in your mind.
Speaking of pictures in the mind, I give as an example Harry Caray. We used to listen to St. Louis Cardinal baseball with Harry Caray as the sports announcer back in the 1940s and early 1950s. When you had Harry Caray, who needed television? When Harry Caray talked about a great play by shortstop Alex Grammis and that long throw to first, just in time, you could just see the shortstop leaping to grab that grounder and then whipping that ball to the first baseman for the out. And when Stan "The Man" Musial was at bat, you could see his stance at the plate; and, he swings!! and it's a high fly ball to deep right field. It Might Be, It Coouuld Beee! -- IT IS!!! A HOME RUN by Stan the Man! To hear it from Harry Caray was even better than seeing it with your eyes on TV. I contend that hearing baseball on radio, with a good broadcaster, was even more exciting than watching baseball on TV.
The old radio broadcasters also knew sound effects. We used to hear a program on radio called "The Inner Sanctum." Even the name of the show was eerie. And when you heard that creaking door opening to who knows what, it made the hair stand up on the back of your neck. And when you know that your hero is in a pool with some dangerous alligators, and you hear water swish and a sharp splat, away goes your imagination -- you see things in your mind, possibly more vividly than if you were seeing them on screen. Radio also exposed us as kids to great classical music.
For example, the theme music for "The Lone Ranger" and Tonto was the "William Tell Overture." It is amazing how fitting parts of that music seem to be for galloping horses as the Lone Ranger pursued the crooks across the desert, or closing in on a gang of robbers, or when all the crooks are in jail and all is right with the world, the music plays as the Lone Ranger and Tonto ride off into the sunset!
But, we really went for TV when it became available. We got our first TV in 1953, about the time we were building our new house on the farm.
That was 66 years ago when I was 13 years old. We could only access three channels at first, and to do that we needed a tall tower on the top of the hill above our house, and a controller on top of the TV to aim the tower antenna toward the station's signal. Apparently TV was better in California than in rural Arkansas. I remember that soon after we got our TV, (all were black and white in those days), my uncles from Los Angeles came for a visit. Dad was out of the house doing farm chores and the uncles were watching our TV. Uncle Gene commented to Uncle Earl that "Russell seemed to think he was getting a pretty good picture. It sure looks snowy to me!" OK, our TV was pretty snowy back then, but we hadn't yet seen better, so it looked pretty good. The television sets in those days were what today would be described as analog. The signal was different from today's digital signal. The old signal served to work with a big TV tube which magnetically directed a flow of electrons, splaying the stream in lines across the screen many times a second.
Today's TVs work by receiving and processing a stream of numerical values.
We used to think of some of our technological gadgets as separate units in the old days. We had phones; we had cameras, and by the 1970s and 1980s we had transistor radios, mini-calculators, and we had begun having computers. But these were all separate from one another. Who would have thought to combine a phone and a camera? Or who would have supposed that a phone needed a calculator, or a calendar, or that you could make a radio into a phone, or that someday you could run computer applications on your phone or that you could watch TV on your phone?
We for certain weren't thinking of doing those things in the 1940s and 1950s. But little did we know that all those things in a way were already in the works and would become practical in the years to come.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 621-1621.Editorial on 09/04/2019
Print Headline: Adjusting to new technology