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Gay Byrne says hello to his fanclub
August 9, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

In Which The Irish Invent Twitter, 1984 (via Broadsheet.ie) Back in 1984 on the Late Late Show Gay Byrne shows off a new invention, a machine that allows you to send text over the phonelines. Among the uses to which this invention was put was securely communicating with Nelson Mandela in prison. Although, unfortunately, it didn't work reliably with South African phone lines.

For more background on the company, Data Display as it is now, and the inventor Kevin Neville see this pdf article.
posted by Fence (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm holding my phone up to my computer screen, but nothing is happening. Please advise.
posted by crunchland at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2012


Samuel Morse
posted by DU at 10:38 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awesome video. I love seeing those historic moments of yore. Have not heard the word "telex" since 1985 or so.

They always seem hilariously backward, those tech devices of the past that went on to become more advanced, more convenient, sleeker, smaller, ones that one thinks of as routine items. The improvements seem momentarily obvious, like why didn't they think of that from the get-go? But then life is not like that. It is, in fact, a stumbling haltingly into the discoveries, not knowing the next step.

The last century, from 1900 to 2000 was so jam packed with amazing new inventions that changed the planet, stuff that went from primitive to hi-tech in a flash. I look forward each week now to hearing about new inventions. These are truly amazing times.
posted by nickyskye at 10:58 AM on August 9, 2012


Afterthoughts: I love that his name is Gay. In 1984 that word was not yet the official one to mean what it does now. And the OP vid reminds me of these retro-future ads.
posted by nickyskye at 11:34 AM on August 9, 2012


Well, to be pendantic, this is much more SMS than Twitter. It's phone-based text, no Internet connectivity required, and only has a single recipient.

It was an interesting time for experimentation in connectivity. Miniaturized digital electronics, although not yet bountifully powerful, had already become commonplace and cheap, but generic infrastructures and formats to connect devices had not yet been envisioned, so everyone was coming up with specialized oddball proprietary solutions for music, video and text. At the time the mind boggled at what possibilities were almost within reach, just over the horizon.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, 'Gay' was used a Looooong time ago to refer to male homosexuals. My late mother used that term.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:22 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


SMS wouldn't be around till 1992 though, so it's all good.
posted by Artw at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2012


According to this, the term "gay" for homosexual dates back to the 1920s.
posted by crunchland at 12:47 PM on August 9, 2012


Geez, people, did you read the Wikipedia link in my comment? It says about the word, gay: The term's use as a reference to homosexuality may date as early as the late 19th century, but its use gradually increased in the 20th century

It also says: By the end of the 20th century, the word gay was recommended by major LGBT groups and style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Which is to say it was not the official term until the end of the 20th Century.
posted by nickyskye at 1:07 PM on August 9, 2012


Oh, official ... <eyeroll>
posted by crunchland at 1:14 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the people lol-ing over his name, 'Gay' isn't an uncommon name here. It can be used for both men and women, interestingly.

(Also Gay Byrne is still kicking around, although he doesn't do the Late Late Show any more.)
posted by anaximander at 2:17 PM on August 9, 2012


Sending text over phonelines means "inventing twitter"? What?

Plus, um, hello:
Telex began in Germany as a research and development program in 1926 that became an operational teleprinter service in 1933. The service was operated by the Federal Post Office and had a speed of 50 baud - approximately 66 words-per-minute.
Telex used phone lines. This thing is just a kind of personal telex machine. Of course the telegraph existed even before the telephone did.

Plus, if you watch the video the guy makes a big deal about sending '5,000 words', twitter only does 140 characters. SMS does only 160, so... this is like neither.
posted by delmoi at 4:39 AM on August 10, 2012


It also says: By the end of the 20th century, the word gay was recommended by major LGBT groups and style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Which is to say it was not the official term until the end of the 20th Century.
Uh, you cant have LGBT without the G.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 AM on August 10, 2012


nickyskye: "Afterthoughts: I love that his name is Gay. "
He is a bit of an institution over here. One, imo, well past his sell-by date, but still popular.
posted by Fence at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2012


> It also says: By the end of the 20th century, the word gay was recommended by major LGBT groups and style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Which is to say it was not the official term until the end of the 20th Century.

Oh, for pete's sake, the "end of the 20th century" can include the 80s. By the 1970s, "gay" was the generally accepted term, and the old meaning of the word was kaput unless you were singing along with West Side Story, the Flintstones, etc. The firstpride parades were Gay Liberation marches.
Thousands of young men and women homosexuals from all over the Northeast marched from Greenwich Village to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park yesterday, proclaiming "the new strength and pride of the gay people. NYT, 1970
As for styleguides, um, they're famously conservative. In 2010, the AP Stylebook finally changed “Web site” to “website.”

> Well, to be pedantic, this is much more SMS than Twitter. It's phone-based text, no Internet connectivity required, and only has a single recipient.

CynicalKnight, that was my first thought as well, I don't think its pedantic, I find the Twitter reference an irritatingly lazy headline. "In Which The Irish Invent Texting, 1984" isn't any less cool. I wonder if this is a styleguide issue. "Text messaging" would the more acceptable term over "texting," but is too general-sounding to convey newfangled! pop culture!!
posted by desuetude at 9:23 AM on August 11, 2012


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