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These 90-year-old headlines about radio could be about the internet today
Our fear and excitement over new technology don't seem to have changed all that much in the last century
This device changed everything... a century ago.
This device changed everything... a century ago. Think Stock
W

hen radio was new, it raised all sorts of questions about how it would affect our lives and what its benefits and drawbacks might turn out to be. Journalists responded to these questions in the same way they always have, with trend pieces introduced by provocatively clickable headlines. Of course, no one was clicking back then, but they were doing the 1920s equivalent — noticing, stopping, reading, buying more. The formula that got them to that point has been working ever since.

According to Erik Barnouw, in his history of the early days of radio (A Tower in Babel), there were no articles about radio broadcasting listed in the 1919-21 Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, but the next edition "listed a cataract of radio articles, going on for ten pages." Here are 12 that could just as well be attached to trend-pieces on anything that's newfangled today.

1. "How radio is remaking the world."

2. "Does radio rob the song writers?"

3. "Removing the last objection to living in the country."

4. "How ten concerns are putting radio to practical use."

5. "Shall we advertise by radio?"

6. "Is radio hurting the church?"

7. "Ether waves vs. crime waves."

8. "Are women undesirable over the radio?"

9. "Fight for freedom of the air."

10. "Urgent need for radio legislation."

11. "Decorating the radio room."

12. "Radio, the modern peace dove."

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon.

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