It’s 1960 and WWII has been more than a decade removed from our thoughts. Innovation and technology are no longer the sole privy of the military industrial complex, and cool gadgets are now making their way into the populace. As the era of peace, love, and Rock & Roll are dawning, so too is the infant version of our modern day internet. Telephone answering machines can now function autonomously, keeping us more connected than ever. And television is no longer a product only the super-wealthy can enjoy.
1963: The Automatic Answering Machine Debuts
The answering machine’s origins date back to 1898, when Valdemar Poulsen invented the “telegraphone” and patented its use. It was the first practical machine that was capable of magnetic sound recording that could be replayed.
The first automatic answering machines were invented in 1935 and were three feet tall. Technically publicly available, the products were unwieldy and unreliable, however quite popular with Orthodox Jews forbidden to answer the phone on the Sabbath.
We’re a long way from cramming television into our portable phones (we’re a bit away from portable phones at all!), but television has now at least made its way out of the niche of only the households of the super-rich, and are becoming a staple in every home that can afford one.
The milquetoast television of the 50s was now giving way to TV’s becoming a force for journalism and real political coverage. Now a ubiquitous household appliance and not an extravagance, families began to revolve much of their lives around TV (even though there wasn’t even a fraction of the channels we have today).
"The TV was the center of the house," recalled Tom Hanks, one of the executive producers of CNN's "The Sixties" series. "I don't remember a time without TV." Television may be on the way out now that “streaming content” is slowly replacing the standalone TV, but even if the ubiquity may fade, TVs don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. They’re just a little bit lonelier than they were in the 60s.
The Internet is Just Around the Corner
Only barely a part of 60s history, ARPANET, the precursor to the internet began in 1969. It would take another decade before the packet-transferring intra-network system was able to begin to emulate the internet as we know it today, but it’s worth pointing out that this technology that no one even knew existed until the mid-to-late-80s was a United States government-funded project as far back as the 60s.
And it’s the same infrastructure your Smartphone relies on today! Massively upgraded, but literally the same technological paradigm. Sadly, it will still be decades before we, the UK, are on the World Wide Web!
The 1960s were an era when futurism stopped seeming like something a hundred years off, but just years away. Sure we never got the flying cars and vacation trips to the moon we were promised, but we did get robot-driven cars and smartphones with exponentially more computing power than the computers had that took us to the moon. And oh yeah, we finally went to the moon!
With the turn of the millennium now nearly a full score in our rear-view mirror, it’s hard not to imagine the 60s of this century involving anything less than fully-automated personal drones (hey, those already exist!) and smartphones being replaced by similar technology embedded directly in our brain. Google Glass may have been a flop, but Google Frontal Lobe™ may be the defining technology of 2060.