Electronics in the Early Days

By Terry Claypoole

Electronics in the early days were much different than they are today. Most young people today would not even recognize many of the gadgets that were used by their parents and grandparents.

In the 1930s, referred to as the Golden Age of Radio, it was all they had for communication as well as for entertainment. Families would gather around it to hear radio programs like “The Lone Ranger” and “The Shadow.” There were also comedy shows featuring the voices of Jack Benny and Fred Allen. They were even able to keep up with certain news from their president, Franklin Roosevelt, with his “Fireside Chats.” Radios were the tools that helped establish the networks like NBC and CBS. Most people today do not even use radios much anymore. They have moved on to MP3 players or simply listen to music on their phone or computer.  

The Invention of the Record Player

Then there was the record player. It started out as a phonograph player that was first invented in 1887 which was also called a gramophone. Before electricity, they were operated by a hand crank. The very first ones looked much different than the gramophone. They were operated by a needle point that would go across the “record” as it turned and at times, the needle would scratch the record which in turn, cause the record to “skip” every time you played it.

There were different sizes of records that could be played on record players: 45’s, 33s, and 78s. The first size that was introduced, in 1948, was the 33s or LPs which means “long play” and would rotate at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. The length was approximately 25 minutes on each side. Due to the material they were made of, they were called vinyl records. The 45s were singles with a song on each side and were introduced in 1949. The 78s were not made until the late 50s and they were 78 revolutions per minute with about five minutes of sound.

You can still find some of these around at various places like old music/antique shops or yard sales but not easy to find. Now we have upgraded to the digital version -- CDs if we want just the sound and DVDs if we want audio and video. Quite a step up from the old records!

When televisions became available to the public and you were fortunate enough to have one, families would have to gather close around the TV just to see it because of the small viewing area.  All TVs started out as black and white.  Color TVs were not available to the public until the 1950s. On a positive note, at least the family would be doing something together. In today's world, family members are doing things separately;  usually in separate rooms playing video games or talking on their cell phones. 

Movie Production Equipment

This is a movie production team with their antiquated equipment. They would have to move this monstrosity around as they went from one scene to another.  Can you imagine having to push this thing around from one place to another?

The Typewriter 

You rarely see a typewriter anymore. This is how “word processing” was done back then and there was no saving your work on a hard drive. If you typed errors, you either had to get some “white-out” and type over it (which did not look very professional) or pull the paper out and start over. It was not very convenient and very time-consuming but it was the only way to produce your written words whether it was a report for school or business paperwork for your boss. It was a very necessary and helpful tool back in those days. One good thing about it is that you were not looking into a computer screen all day like we do today. Today, computers have replaced the typewriter and, in some cases, replaced people’s jobs.  

Telephone Booths 

Do you ever see these anymore?  The demise of the pay telephone booth is a result of cell phones in 95% of Americans' pockets.

Before cell phones, you always had to make sure you had some change on you in case you needed to call home. There was no carrying your phone in your pocket or purse. These telephones had wires connected to them – there was no such thing as wireless and you would have to actually “dial” the number. They did eventually evolve to a keypad where you could punch the numbers in but there was no memory storage to give you an option of saving someone’s number in it. You would have to remember the number or have it written down somewhere.  

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Terry Claypoole


Terry is a lover of the beach, history, politics and has a passion for social media and technology. In her spare time, you can find her at the beach (of course) enjoying the sand and sun and listening to music from the groovy era.