Skip

And won't hubby have a time when he has to carry one!
October 16, 2011 2:53 PM   Subscribe

This marvel of technology is both a mobile phone (with a flip-top case!) and a portable music player, a fashionable item that modern women will want to carry around the streets. The recommended accessories are an umbrella and a fire hydrant, because it's 1922. From the vaults of British Pathe (see also).

The umbrella serves as an aerial and the fire hydrant is used for ground (probably).
posted by elgilito (58 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish we had something like that now.
posted by Splunge at 3:06 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


PUSH BUTTON PHONING
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: the Whelk's link -- given the time, would that be a crossbar system?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:21 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Splunge, if you REALLY want an "aerial," buy a satellite phone. Enjoy paying hundreds of dollars a month for really excellent connectivity.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:32 PM on October 16, 2011


During a NY Tel strike in the 60s my on-strike dad took me to one of the phone company buildings in NYC and I got to use that rotary dial vs. touchtone phone thing. It was faster but it was a loooong time before we got one in our house.
posted by tommasz at 3:40 PM on October 16, 2011


I want this to be real. Is it real?

(I don't think it can be real.)
posted by lollusc at 3:55 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're talking to this woman:

posted by NorthernLite at 3:58 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


They can envision a world where people have wireless phones but not one where a call can be connected without the assistance of an operator.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


That fire hydrant looks suspiciously modern
posted by Stu-Pendous at 4:24 PM on October 16, 2011


Apple IP lawsuit filed in 5...4...3...2..
posted by MikeMc at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Memo to sitcom and tv commercial writers (I'm looking at you, Whitney): that joke about husbands not wanting to listen to their wives talk is at least 89 years old.
posted by halftone at 5:07 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love all the history at sites like British Pathe and besides the artistic flavor there is such societal context when you dig in.
posted by JackVarnell at 5:14 PM on October 16, 2011


Various clues, including the expressions of the ladies but also the phrase "wireless," make me think this clip is of recent manufacture.
posted by Peach at 6:09 PM on October 16, 2011


Peach: "Various clues, including the expressions of the ladies but also the phrase "wireless," make me think this clip is of recent manufacture."

"Wireless" was also another name for radio back then.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:10 PM on October 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Peach, ShawnStruck: I was about to say, when I read things written around WWI it is far more common to see the term wireless used then the term radio, though I though that was a British vs American thing.
posted by Canageek at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2011


They can envision a world where people have wireless phones but not one where a call can be connected without the assistance of an operator.

Yes, because it's a radio You know, one of those things that have existed since the 1880s?

Various clues, including the expressions of the ladies but also the phrase "wireless," make me think this clip is of recent manufacture.

Here's ad for a 'wireless telegraph' from 1903
posted by delmoi at 6:47 PM on October 16, 2011


In fact, when "wireless" started being used for things like 802.11 in the '90s, I always found it kind of jarring— I associated it strongly with pre-WWII usage. (Eg "the wireless" where we'd use "the radio" today).
posted by hattifattener at 6:56 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


the expressions of the ladies but also the phrase "wireless,"

That's silly ... the term 'wireless' was more common than 'radio' in those times (only 30 years after wireless was invented). Ship telegraphers were known as 'wireless operators'. Tesla dreamed of 'wireless' power.

The 20s were the time of the 'flapper girls', and they were very fashionable and handy with the makeup - not just in Hollywood silents - and spoke their own language. That is a perky pair!

That 'telephone' would have been nearly useless. Wavelengths in use then (200m) mean that (1m) antenna's extremely inefficient. Crude batteries of that time would have lasted minutes not hours - and carriable ones were not rechargeable.

The Victrola and that forge-hammer-sized microphone the 'operator' held up were hilarious. I'd guess the director of that film went on to make science-fiction films! Great piece of history that.
posted by Twang at 7:45 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


That 'telephone' would have been nearly useless. Wavelengths in use then (200m) mean that (1m) antenna's extremely inefficient.

It was several meters long, and wrapped around an umbrella.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 PM on October 16, 2011


Why do goofy sh1t that makes me wanna scream "fake!"??? I hate being a negative Nelly all the time.

Why the wobbly graphics at 0:22? Would that only happen during a live projection? And WTF does a needle and gramophone record have to do with it at 0:44? And how about ye olde time sound track? That's just trying too hard.

I hope I'm wrong.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:16 PM on October 16, 2011


Duh. I get the gramophone record now. That's the "music on the move" bit, right? It's not mentioned in the movie reel, I might add.

Coz that's the first thing I think of when I'm in the street in the middle of a blizzard. I want to listen to a shiteful recording of music over a shiteful wireless radio. "Here, Bessie. Hold this for me, will ya."

"Bessie, will ya quit ya yapping! I'm trying to listen to dis here recording."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:37 PM on October 16, 2011


#1 . The women are too thin. Standards of beauty back then were that women had more body fat then they do now. An actual advertisement would have used a more standard model of beauty . Even Marilyn Monroe back in the 60's was a size 14.

#2. The umbrella could not work as an effective antenna . Technology back in the 20's used spark gap/tube technology and wavelengths well over 100 meters long. Antennas the size of an umbrella would have been nonsense back then

#3. There was no imaginable portable power source (one that could be carried by a person) for a 1920's era transmitter using tubes. Typical transmitting stations can be viewed here

It's fake.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charming video, but most likely of recent manufacture. The girls in that video are awfully tall compared to the fire hydrant, with their sexy vampy shoes. Most ladies of that era were much shorter in stature. Also, the lady on the left is obviously holding Tim Burton's umbrella, and he wasn't born until the '60's.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2011


I like how everyone's claims of fakeness give conflicting reasons.
posted by cmoj at 9:07 PM on October 16, 2011


Oh yes ... another thing. The women are using a transceiver. Back then radios were very bulky things and the idea of combining a huge transmitter and huge receiver would have been considered ludicrous. The first handheld transceiver (the handi-talkie) was classified top secret and was not developed until the early 1940's and was used in WW 2.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:10 PM on October 16, 2011


It's fake

Wow. You really can prove anything with facts. I thought it was fake coz of slightly more subtle reasons.

Now that I mention it, I've always thought this "Edison" film stunk to high heaven.

Again, mainly subtle things like the way the men walk. And as for the ye olde time sound effects of a projector. Really?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:14 PM on October 16, 2011


I like how everyone's claims of fakeness give conflicting reasons.

Do you mean different reasons? Name the conflicting reasons...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:16 PM on October 16, 2011


So what you are saying is that British Pathé is forging their historic newsreels. This is rather a newsworthy thing to claim. They are after all asking for money for licenses of their archives.
posted by Authorized User at 9:18 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Flappers were notoriously skinny. Since Monroe's time there has been a treadmill of size inflation as clothing designers try to flatter women who are self conscious about their weight. She would not be a 14 in today's sizes.
posted by idiopath at 9:29 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what you are saying is that British Pathé is forging their historic newsreels.

Or that someone has faked a newsreel and bunged a "British Pathé" graphic up the top? Famous museums and historical institutions would nevar evarr get tricked into manufacturing / displaying / buying fakes.

Nevar evarr. History proves this to be true.

This sort of blind "it was on the internet and the peeps that made it said so right up the top so it must be trooooooo" thinking pretty much ended the political career of an otherwise smart man. See also Rathergate. And the faked pics of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners. And lots more.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:31 PM on October 16, 2011


It kind of seems unlikely to me too, but for the fact that it's in Pathé's archives.

Duh. I get the gramophone record now. That's the "music on the move" bit, right?

One of the original applications of telephone technology was as a broadcast technology; you would dial in at a specific time and listen to an orchestra or whatever. The idea of the telephone as a massively peer-to-peer communication system came later.
posted by carter at 9:33 PM on October 16, 2011


It kind of seems unlikely to me too, but for the fact that it's in Pathé's archives.

Exactly! I'm torn.

Mine was a pretty useless "hmmm, smells fishy" feeling. But look at Poet_Lariat's thoughts pertaining to technology of the era...

Unless Poet_Lariat's thoughts are fake.

My brane hurts.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:44 PM on October 16, 2011


British Pathé is not a museum. Right there
on the second link they claim to have made this in 1922 as part of their Eve's Film Review series.
posted by Authorized User at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2011


Cant quite put my finger on exactly why, but I fear we have all been punked by this video somehow.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 9:53 PM on October 16, 2011


British Pathé is not a museum. Right there

I said: "Famous museums and historical institutions"

Right there.

Jesus farking Christ. Maybe I'll take cortex's advice. I'll go and do something In Real Life and wait for the "I want to believe!" crowd to start actually making sense.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:54 PM on October 16, 2011


I'm sorry I misread. But it still follows that this is not a case of mistakenly archiving someone else's content.
posted by Authorized User at 10:03 PM on October 16, 2011


I guess that iPhone 4 users might have found that umbrella and fire hydrant useful too...

(I don't think it's fake: just a charming bit of 1920s sci-fi).
posted by Skeptic at 10:42 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it is just a portable radio receiver.
The novelty is that it can be used away from home. The lady with the mic is the announcer, the gramophone is some music. The listeners apparently having a conversation are just chatting to one another about how awesome this transportable radio receiver is.
posted by bystander at 10:43 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat: "The women are using a transceiver. Back then radios were very bulky things and the idea of combining a huge transmitter and huge receiver would have been considered ludicrous."

Batteries and circuitry of the 1960s could never have made a Star Trek communicator work. I am pretty sure this is authentically from the era presented, but it is science fiction.

Also, now that I am at my desktop machine, here are links backing up flappers being thin (if anything women from the era of this film were the inspiration for future trends in skinniness) and Marilyn Monroe would not be plus sized by today's standards as well.
posted by idiopath at 10:46 PM on October 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


On review, what bystander said. The device is mislabeled: it's apparently only a receiver (no microphone). Possibly a crystal radio set (no bulky batteries or tubes).
posted by Skeptic at 10:49 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing is, newsreels were just as sketchy back in the day as Popular Mechanics and its ilk as far as presenting What Everyone Will Be Doing/Driving/Flying Five Years From Now. In Space! A lot of things on newsreels were not what we would call "news", and almost all of it was packaged in ways that we would consider out-of-bounds for a news organization today (or at least during the heyday of journalism). This was simply showing the next big thing, as some envisioned it.

I wouldn't call it science fiction, exactly, but more along the lines of something that was just too impractical to become a real consumer product, especially as real radio broadcasting developed.

The device is mislabeled: it's apparently only a receiver

To be sure, the caption on film says Eve's 'phone. I take this to be an abbreviation of the then-popular term radio-phone. In a November 1922 Hearst's interview, Edison spoke of it in glowing terms:
That the radio-phone is perhaps the most spectacular of all inventions is shown by the unparalleled appeal that it is making to the public imagination. It was marvellous when Marconi sent Morse signals through the ether; but to hear the human voice come apparently from nowhere—or everywhere—without wires— that assumes almost the proportions of a miracle.

The common people always seem to sense a great invention. When Edison invented the incandescent electric light, public interest in it was so great that the Pennsylvania Railroad ran excursion trains to Menlo Park. People flocked to see Edison's first electric engine. President Hayes sat up until 3:30 in the morning to hear Edison's first phonograph say, "Mary had a little lamb," and, "There was a little girl who had a little curl, etc."

The same instinct is now directing public attention to the radio-; Jephone. The broadcasting of President Harding's speech at Arlington, in November, 1921, was the starting-point. The people of the Middle West were the first to sense the importance of the new device. A Detroit newspaper began broadcasting in January.

A month later New York City awoke with a start. Two afternoon newspapers began printing daily radio-pages and weekly radio magazine sections. Department stores installed radio-phone departments and sold instruments while radio music rang through the stores. Manufacturers of instruments were swamped with orders. Half a dozen big cities east of the Mississippi River were broadcasting musical programs and speeches every night.

Unless the public instinct, which has been right heretofore, is wrong this time, the radio-phone is destined to make a big place for itself....

The radio-phone is now but little more than six months old. if its birth may be fixed on the day of the ceremonies at Arlington. So far as age is concerned, the radio-phone is about where the phonograph was when it was turned with a crank, played tin-foil records, and recited "Mary had a little lamb."

What the radio-phone will be when it has "grown up," no one knows. Edison doubts if it will ever be able to sing well, but places no limits upon its powers of speech. What a field there is for an instrument that can project the human Voice across a continent! The idea is so big that we understand but little when we utter it. The human voice has always been so weak. By itself, it is but a little puff of air that is heard by one or two, or a thousand or two. Projected over a telephone, it may go thousands of miles, but when it stops it is heard by but one.

But the radio-phone! Considered only as a speaking instrument, to what uses may it not go?

Edison told me that it would be used in political campaigns. Before his words could be put on paper, Senator New, sitting in Washington, had addressed by radio-phone, thousands of his constituents in Indiana. The whole thing was impromptu. He had intended to go in person, but could not get away. What was there to do? Why, the radio-phone would bridge the distance, and the next day congressional Washington was buzzing with discussion of the possibility of conducting campaigns for Congress from Washington by wireless telephone.

The radio-phone is now where the automobile was when it ran on bicycle wheels and was driven by a one-cylinder engine!

Manufacturers of receiving instruments say that by the end of this year, a million sets will be in operation. It seems but a question of a little time when it will be possible to address practically the entire country over the radio-phone.

posted by dhartung at 11:15 PM on October 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Something I don't think has been addressed / acknowledged by the "it's fake" crowd: keep in mind that newsreels & educational films present non-working, hypothetical gadgets all the time. I don't think this movie is saying "yes, this exists now and here is a genuine working demo!" It could be more of a "with our current and emerging technology, something like this could be coming in the near future!"

The item in question may have been "faked" for the sake of the film, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the film is of recent orient. (most of the so-called "clues" leading to this conclusion can be debunked or at least disputed anyway)
posted by ShutterBun at 11:17 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]




The street is conveniently without car.
posted by BurnChao at 12:45 AM on October 17, 2011


Technology back in the 20's used spark gap/tube technology and wavelengths well over 100 meters long. Antennas the size of an umbrella would have been nonsense back then

They also had something called a crystal set.

The design looks somewhat familiar, no?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:09 AM on October 17, 2011


It's not fake, it's from Pathe's archives. There are plenty of other examples from that time of similar ideas - go and look at the magazines from then - and while nobody might have invented a two-tube transceiver at that point, it was clearly possible.

The world of technology in the 1920s was a lot livelier than many think. You'll find people predicting large, HD, flat-screen colour TVs, for example - the timeframe it took to produce these might not have been in line with marketing predictions, but plus ca change...
posted by Devonian at 2:05 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


>Poet_Lariat: The umbrella could not work as an effective antenna
Perhaps it could not work, but people kept trying... The Google Books link I added to the More Inside shows a number of books of that period that recommends using an umbrella as an antenna. There was apparently a cottage industry of small portable radio-telephones made by proto-geeks. The first result of the Google Books search is a page from the boy-scout mazine "Boy's Life" (June 1922):
All records for building small receiving sets are believed to have been broken by an ingenious New Jersey youth who has made a receiver in the shape of a ring. It makes a rather conspicuous ring, to be sure, measuring one inch in length, five-eighths of an inch in width and seven-sixteenths of an inch in thickness. The wires running from the ring are connected up with an umbrella which serves as the antenna. By raising the umbrella and adjusting the minute set, one is able to listen in on messages for a radius of many miles. It does not seem possible that the size of receiving sets can be reduced much further.
The "New Jersey youth" was called Alfred G. Rinehart (1899 - 1980). He's also cited in the Radio Amateur Handbook (from 1922). From Chapter XX. HOW TO MAKE A RECEIVING SET FOR $5.00 OR LESS:
How to Connect Up the Receptor.--Now connect up all the parts as shown in Figs. 99 and 100, then connect the leading-in wire of the aerial with the lever of the switch; and connect the free end of the tuning coil with the ground. If you have no aerial wire try hooking it up to a rain pipe that is not grounded or the steel frame of an umbrella. For a ground you can use a water pipe, an iron pipe driven into the ground, or a hydrant.
See also a grainy article about 12-year old boy scout Kenneth R. Hinman, inventor of a matchbox-size receptor.
posted by elgilito at 2:08 AM on October 17, 2011


I don't think it would be that remarkable for an old movie clip to feature old-timey music. In fact, what other kind of music would it feature?
posted by DU at 5:01 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this is fake, someone went to a hugely impressive effort in aging the film footage. I've seen a lot of fake newsreel footage in my day and none of the damage looks anywhere near this authentic. (Granted I'm watching on my phone but still. )

The music is a nonissue. If this dates back to the early 1920s it's a silent clip anyway.
posted by Joey Bagels at 5:21 AM on October 17, 2011


Um, guys, I think it was meant to be a joke.
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 AM on October 17, 2011


My copy of the Internet Guide to Insincerity clearly states that in a jocular accusation of fakery one must declare "I can tell from the pixels".
posted by idiopath at 9:25 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'm with ShutterBun. Thinking that the technology portrayed in the film is not 'workable' or 'authentic' is misleading. Maybe this thing doesn't work anyway, but it's some kind of 'proof-of-concept' film from the 1920s, much like Apple's Knowledge Navigator was. They could just be goofing around in a sort of "Imagine the Future" kind of way.
posted by carter at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2011


I can't belive all the idiots who think this is fake. The video is on the british pathe site, which is the same site that comes up in the first link when you do a google search for "british pathe", and has hundreds of historical videos. It's also the website listed in the wikipedi article

So if this is a fake someone went through the trouble of creating a website with hundreds of historical videos, faking the wikipedia article, and doing a massive amount of SEO in order to knock the real pathe website out of google and replace it with theirs.

The fact that people would call this fake is just amazing. I mean, you can't take 10 seconds to do any research, instead your just going by your biases and ideas about what life was like at that time without even taking a second of reflection to see if your biases or ideas are wrong (the most obvious thinking that the word 'wireless' was an anachronism).

Maybe the device the girls held was just a mockup, one of those "in the future you'll use technology like this" movies that have been around forever. It's like watching this video and saying it wasn't really made in the 1960s because people didn't have computers and the internet back then.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


My take- it's real, and it would work. It IS a receiver only, NO batteries, a crystal set- I can see the crystal, and see the woman "tickle" it to find the sensitive spot (been there, done that).... the umbrella antenna would work pretty well if the transmitter's fairly close, the fire hydrant ground is correct for the purpose.
Of course, it worked a bit too easily and too well - Delmoi, Carter, good call on that. It takes a bit of fiddlin' to find the sensitive spot on a crystal, and the same person who does the fiddlin' has to be listening to the 'phone- AND with a crystal set, you're talkin' very low volume that is unlikely to be listenable on the street. So, an idealized film, made to show what will come Real Soon Now.
posted by drhydro at 10:59 AM on October 17, 2011


Delmoi: I can't belive all the idiots who think this is fake. The video is on the british pathe site, which is the same site that comes up in the first link when you do a google search for "british pathe", and has hundreds of historical videos.

I did point out that it would indeed be rather remarkable that a British Pathé clip would turn out to be a forgery. Apparently I am a gullible idiot who does not make any sense and my arguments are comparable to those of of UFO-believers. Because people in the 1920s were fat and short, modern fire hydrants were not patented in the 1860s, radio wasn't called wireless before wi-fi, popular entertainment never exaggerates technological advancements, and women had different facial expressions in the 1920s.
posted by Authorized User at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did you just call me an idiot, delmoi? Come come.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:09 PM on October 17, 2011


Maybe the device the girls held was just a mockup, one of those "in the future you'll use technology like this" movies that have been around forever.

That's the most likely explanation in my mind after mulling over it last night.

If this is fake, someone went to a hugely impressive effort in aging the film footage. I've seen a lot of fake newsreel footage in my day and none of the damage looks anywhere near this authentic. (Granted I'm watching on my phone but still. )

The music is a nonissue. If this dates back to the early 1920s it's a silent clip anyway.


Exactly. So we've got a movie of something that doesn't exist. And somewhere along the line, some genius has decided to trick it up and add some music.

Just an aside, what's with the wobbly graphics at 0:22? Who decided that? The original maker or the same goofball who added the music?

I've seen a lot of fake newsreel footage in my day

Joke intended?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:21 PM on October 17, 2011


@delmoi: several meters long

You are correct. And if MeFi had an edit after you goofup feature, I could have fixed the typo where I left out the "0" in "10". But I felt assured that some sharp-eyed reader such as yourself would notice.

At any rate, 10m is only 1/5 of a quarter wavelength (and since it's looped, the effective wavelength is less than that), which at the power in use (doubt it's more than 0.1 watt considering the maximum B+) will be good for about a block and a half, IF the wind's right.
posted by Twang at 5:42 AM on October 21, 2011


« Older Mosquitoes Must Die.   |   RIP Dan Wheldon Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post