When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century

Paperback | May 1, 1990

byCarolyn Marvin

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In the history of electronic communication, the last quarter of the nineteenth century holds a special place, for it was during this period that the telephone, phonograph, electric light, wireless, and cinema were all invented. In When old Technologies Were New, Carolyn Marvin explores howtwo of these new inventions--the telephone and the electric light--were publicly envisioned at the end of the nineteenth century, as seen in specialized engineering journals and popular media. Marvin pays particular attention to the telephone, describing how it disrupted established socialrelations, unsettling customary ways of dividing the private person and family from the more public setting of the community. On the lighter side, she describes how people spoke louder when calling long distance, and how they worried about catching contagious diseases over the phone. A particularlypowerful chapter deals with telephonic precursors of radio broadcasting--the "Telephone Herald" in New York and the "Telefon Hirmondo" of Hungary--and the conflict between the technological development of broadcasting and the attempt to impose a homogenous, ethnocentric variant of Anglo-Saxonculture on the public. While focusing on the way professionals in the electronics field tried to control the new media, Marvin also illuminates the broader social impact, presenting a wide-ranging, informative, and entertaining account of the early years of electronic media.

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From the Publisher

In the history of electronic communication, the last quarter of the nineteenth century holds a special place, for it was during this period that the telephone, phonograph, electric light, wireless, and cinema were all invented. In When old Technologies Were New, Carolyn Marvin explores howtwo of these new inventions--the telephone and...

Carolyn Marvin is at University of Pennsylvania.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 5.43 × 8.27 × 0.59 inPublished:May 1, 1990Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195063414

ISBN - 13:9780195063417

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"Could provide a model for other historians....Throughout the book Marvin chooses arresting and funny examples to illustrate her points....she has applied traditional historical techniques rigorously and well and used a number of new methods with interesting results." --ISIS