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Technology (Living the Twenties #AtoZChallenge 2020)

The Twenties were a time of many discoveries and inventions. New production processes became common and often applicable to the industry, which allowed to lower the prices and make new goods available to a large part of consumers.

It was the case of food, which became largely available in the supermarkets that sprang up everywhere in the big cities. Or the clothing industry, which made mass-product dresses available in the new department stores. 

Many new devises were mass-produced at affordable prices. Hair Dryers, electric blenders, loudspeakers, instant cameras. These were only a few of the items we are so familiar with that became available to the large public for the first time in the 1920s

The Twenties were a time of many discoveries and inventions. New production processes became common, which allowed to lower the prices for the mass market #history #communication Share on X

Radio

Woman tuning on the radio 1923
Woman tuning on the radio 1923

Before the 1920s, radio communication was mostly used to contact ships out at sea. But the signal wasn’t very clear, so the most common radio communication was with the Morse alphabet. It was during WWI that the importance of clearer radio communication became apparent. A lot of advancement in terms of purity of signal and transmission of voice occurred during the war. 

The 1920s benefited from this. Once the war was over, civilian enterprises appropriated radio communication and customers started purchasing radios for private use. 

In Britain, radio broadcasts began in 1922 with the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) based in London. It wasn’t a quick win, though. Although broadcasts became quickly accessible across the UK, Britishers still preferred the newspapers as a means to get their news. It was only in 1926 that a leap occurred when newspapers went on strike and the BBC took their place as the leading source of information for the public.

In the US, the start of radio broadcasting is generally traced to before the war, in 1910, when the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City broadcasted some of their music. But it was in the 1920s that the radio became widespread and widely owned. As radio owners became more numerous, so did broadcasts. Radio became the most popular and most inexpensive of entertainments, with radio dramas and shows becoming popular throughout the country. 

radio in the 1920s

Enjoying the same shows, listening to the same news, and enjoying the same music (the radio had a significant part in the spreading of jazz) brought the population together. The power of radio further accelerated the process of creating a shared national culture that had started when railroads and telegraphs widened the distribution of newspapers.

Radio also helped to spread the mass-production market through radio advertisement, which started from the onset. In many ways, radio advertisement was even more effective than traditional advertisement. People didn’t need to know how to read to be affected by a radio ad. They didn’t even need to stand by the radio to hear it. It was a powerful push to consumerism. 

Cinema

Just like the radio, cinema had a great power to unify the aspirations and expectations of the public. 

Created in the very last part of the 1800s and developed in the 1910s, cinema knew unprecedented popularity in the 1920s. This was probably the decade of the gretest output of films – challenge only by the 1930s -and more affluence of public to the theatres. In the US, movie “palaces” capable of seating thousands sprang up everywhere, with more density in major cities. A ticket for a double feature and a live show cost 25 cents. It was the most inexpensive amusement that allowed people of all classes to watch films multiple times a week. 

It was through the shared enjoyment of films that some ideas spread to a broader public in many nations. The looks and the attitude of the flapper was one such example. The 1920s were the time of the first rise of stardom, with actors and actresses who became so popular that they could influence the behaviour of their fans. Stars became the model for every young person. 

Movies were silent throughout the decade. Sound was indeed an available technology from 1927, but it was so expensive at the time that it didn’t take on until the next decade. 



RESOURCES

Khan Academy – Movies, radio, and sports in the 1920s
BBC – Popular entertainment
Vermont History – Early Days of Radio, 1920
Radio Communication – History of the Radio, from Inception to Modern Day



15 Comments

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 09:32

    I never thought about the connection between radio and advertising… Interesting!

    The Multicolored Diary

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 29, 2020 at 09:18

      Yes, me neather. But then I think I was just surprised that radio advertising started that early.

  • Shweta Suresh
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 18:45

    I have been watching the Downton Abbey series and suddenly I was reminded of how much things had changed after the war.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 29, 2020 at 09:19

      You know? I’v enever watched that show. But I really have to. I’ve heard lots of good things about it.

  • Keith's Ramblings
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 18:57

    Interestingly the BBC never had advertising and still doesn’t today, but it’s clearly the exception to the rule. One of my favourite movies of recent times is The Artist, as it takes us back to the Hollywood of 1927.

    T is for …

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 29, 2020 at 09:20

      The Artist is sich a fantastic movie. Loved it.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 19:19

    Television also was born during the 1920s, though mechanical scanning-disc models looked nothing like modern TVs, and it never quite achieved mass popularity due to the Depression. A lot of hobbyists built their own sets, and TV stations carried quite far in that era.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 29, 2020 at 09:24

      I’ve come across so many inventions that already existed in the 1920s, then faded away and then re-emerged decades later. I should probably write a series about it.

  • John Holton
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 06:54

    Another innovation of the 1920’s was frozen food. It had been around since the end of 19th Century, but Clarence Birdseye was the first person to popularize it in the US in 1929.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 29, 2020 at 09:26

      Yes, frozen foos was in my post when I wrote it, but I had to edit out a few things to make this post suitable for the AtoZ. The 1920s were a time of gret innovation. Many inventions were done that found fruition only decades later. That’s a fascinating topic to explore.

  • Kristin
    Posted April 29, 2020 at 23:24

    I know that my maternal grandmother listened to radio dramas. And I know my paternal grandparents and eventually the whole family went to the movies a lot. I don’t think they were as influenced by advertisments as people are today because they had lived most of their life without being bombarded by them.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 30, 2020 at 07:33

      You’ve made a good point here. Advertising was probably new and exciting in the 1920s, but probably people still had more ‘freedom’ than we have today, because they were not accustomed to it.

  • Ronel Janse van Vuuren
    Posted April 30, 2020 at 16:48

    Fascinating! One doesn’t really think about how all these modern luxuries we take for granted came to be.

    An A-Z of Faerie: Thin Places

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 30, 2020 at 21:28

      1920s technology is really so interesting. Many things had already been invented, but would become common only later.
      I might end up writing a series about it ;-P

  • Garry
    Posted November 16, 2020 at 02:19

    Well information.

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