Brain Pickings

An Animated History of Human Communication: 1965 Educational Film about the Telephone

Barely a decade into the age of the social web, it’s already difficult to remember — or imagine — how the world operated before it. As difficult, perhaps, as it was for kids in the 1960s to imagine a world before the telephone.

We Learn About The Telephone is a 1965 educational film that traces the history of human communication, from the messenger runners of the Ancient world to Native Americans’ smoke signals to the invention of the telegraph and telephone, and explores the science and technology of how the phone actually works, from the anatomy of speech production to the physics of sound waves. Animated by the legendary John Hubley, the film is as much a treat of vintage animation as it is a priceless piece of cultural memorabilia from the golden age of media innovation.

Bonus: At around 10:56, you get a detailed tutorial on how to dial a rotary phone — for your collection of obsolete life skills — followed by some phone etiquette lessons. (“You should let the phone ring 8 to 10 times.”)

Published January 27, 2012




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