Anytime a blogger or tweeter rebels against “anything-that-has-to-make-me-think,” I must interject. Technology today, for better or for worse, is amazing. Stop complaining.
I recently stumbled upon a video of NBC’s live coverage of the assassination of JFK whilst doing some Walter Cronkite reminiscing. I’d already seen his very famous announcement of Jack Kennedy’s death – the one where he’s just received a memo from the AP, takes off his spectacles, looks at a clock off camera, and swallows the lump in his throat.
But, the NBC broadcast is well worth a look. It uncovered some hidden gems in technology circa 1963. It’s amazing to think about how limited your tools were back then. You couldn’t bring a live TV crew to the scene and most live communication was done via messengered tape recordings or with a rotary phone at the desk. Somehow we rocketed a few men to the moon a few years later.
However, more fascinating than this is how poorly even those tools worked – especially when it was needed right this instant. Technology just wasn’t as suited for spontaneity as it is today.
Here’s an attempt to use a phone-speaker-extension-thing no one seems to have ever seen before, including the manufacturer. Chet Huntley (the man on the right) handles it 5% convinced that it’s actually a ticking time bomb.
When NBC wanted to switch over to the local Dallas affiliate, things also went a bit haywire.
In a brilliant description that today would be summed up in the letters W, T, and F…
“As you can appreciate, communication facilities, as you just saw, went in and out. This is a time of, what would probably best be described as, controlled panic. The arrangements for that switch to Fort Worth were made entirely hastily, under conditions of extreme pressure. And that is why the picture came and the audio didn’t and then when the picture dropped the audio came in.”
Today, we seem to be a bit less tolerant of things not working. And, perhaps, that’s a sign that things really are working.