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Dec 02

Vintage Tech and the New Generation

Posted on December 2, 2019 at 3:37 PM by Sharon Hoggard

Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres recently produced a most interesting and funny segment for her talk show. In the segment, she selects a millennial from the studio audience. The millennial is faced with "old tech" including a boom box, a rotary phone, 35 mm camera, a typewriter and other objects from the not-so-distant-past. The millennial is asked to operate those items and the segment is absolutely hilarious.

In Portsmouth, there are a couple of places where you can still view vintage tech . . .
(1) On the desk on display in the Portsmouth Community Colored Library; and (2) in the ship’s office in the stern of the Lightship Portsmouth.

Despite the presence of the familiar QWERTY keyboard on those typewriters, most children do not know what the devices are.

Communications technology has undergone tremendous changes in the past 50 years or so. So much so that the under-10-year-old set has no idea what some of these things were for. 

On August 13, 1954, Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s weekly newspaper, Service to the Fleet, reminded its workers to always call into work quickly as soon as they knew they would be absent with this graphic ad:


telephone graphic NNSY graphic ad

Pull out the cell phone that you are most likely carrying around in your pocket and compare it to the old rotary phone in the picture. Does it bear any resemblance to it? Do you remember rotary phones? Did you ever have an alpha-numeric phone number?

The desire for communication hasn’t changed, but the drastic changes in the tools we use to communicate have changed the frequency with which we reach out to each other, and possible the subject matter of that communication (cute cat videos, anyone?)

What do you think the next thing will be that will change so drastically about daily life? How do you think it might change your routine?


Post submitted by Diane L. Cripps
Curator of History for the Portsmouth Museums