A world of silence, well nearly.
March 16, 2021
Can you imagine the world without radio, television, the Internet and the World Wide Web, satellites or space travel?
I started thinking recently about this question after watching the film 'Hidden Figures'.
The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. The film addresses several important themes.
Including racism, sexism, and the drive to achieve something. The film chronicles the lives of black women working at NASA as "human computers" who do difficult math by hand and in their heads. It takes place in the 1950s and 1960s.
It made me realise just how recently the 'information age' started. Sadly, it also points to the continuing issue of racism and sexism.
I began to think about some of these changes in everyday life starting with the birth of my Mum.
She was born on 26th December 1909.
And until she was 23 she lived in a 'silent world', not literally of course, but a 'radio silent' world. The BBC only began radio broadcasting in 1922.
In the following 2 years, they rapidly expanded the reach of their programmes to an increasingly wider audience.
Can you imagine the excitement and anticipation about this new miracle of wireless just up the road in West Bromwich, the place of my Mum's birth?
It set me thinking about when did the first working radio set came here to Formby.
One of her pre-radio memories included a tale involving a Zeppelin raid during the first world war. Following the raid, my grandfather came home to tell of an eyewitness account of seeing the body of a small child lying on the roof of a nearby house. It had been blown onto the roof by the bomb blast. It must have been a horrific sight.
It's hard to imagine a world where shocking stories like this would only reach a local newspaper audience or an even smaller number of people by word of mouth.
Contrast that with today's information-rich experience, some might argue over-saturated rolling news coverage that we take for granted.
To return to my opening question, even I was surprised that the first John Glenn circumnavigation of the earth in his spacecraft had relied on a 'human computer' to calculate the flight path. The first NASA computer proved to be unreliable. And the date of that first US space adventure was as recent as 22 February 1962. Only a relatively small number of years.
I've listed the major broadcasting milestones below.
18 October – The British Broadcasting Company is formed.
14 November – First BBC broadcasts from London (station 2LO).
15 November – First broadcasts from Birmingham (station 5IT) and Manchester (station 2ZY).
24 December – First broadcast from Newcastle upon Tyne (station 5NO).
8 January – First outside broadcast, the British National Opera Company's production of The Magic Flute from Covent Garden.
18 January – The UK Postmaster General grants the BBC a licence to broadcast.
13 February – First broadcast from Cardiff (station 5WA).
6 March – First broadcast from Glasgow (station 5SC).
6 June – Edgar Wallace makes a report on The Derby, thus becoming the first British radio sports reporter.
28 September – First publication of the Radio Times listings magazine (price 2d).
10 October – First broadcast from Aberdeen (station 2BD).
17 October – First broadcast from Bournemouth (station 6BM).
16 November – First broadcast from Sheffield (relay station 2FL).
2 December – The first BBC radio broadcast in the Gaelic language is broadcast throughout Scotland.