Ye Olde “How-To” Videos – How To Dial A Telephone And More

It’s amazing how quickly technology changes. Take a look at some of these short videos from yesterday that explain how to use the telephone (1927), the TV (1939), the typewriter (1943), the telegraph and fax machine (1946), the 8mm video camera (1967), and the Internet circa 1969 and 1993.

It’s amazing how quickly technology changes. Can you imagine that the phone company once thought
we needed a (newsreel) video
to know how to dial a telephone? Can you
imagine Facebook or YouTube creating videos describing how the underlying
technology gets their messages or videos to the zillions of teens who consume
those services? Well, in 1939 RCA thought
we needed a video explaining to the
masses how television works. Take a look
at the videos from yesterday that explain how to use the telephone (1927), the TV (1939), the typewriter (1943), the telegraph and fax machine (1946), the 8mm video camera (1967),
and the Internet circa 1969 and 1993.
Let me know if you have found similar old videos that describe
technology from the past … black and white clips preferred.


Can you imagine a newsreel describing how do dial a
telephone? Now that I think about it,
our kids would probably need this since the only place they can find a rotary
phone is in a museum.

“Here are a few useful suggestions for the use of your dial telephone:

  1. Before calling any number, secure the number from
    your new directory.
  2. Then remove the receiver and listen for the dial
    tone. It sounds like this … .
  3. Now dial the desired number. (a description of how to
    dial a number follows)
  4. And this is the ringing signal … ..
  5. If the line is busy, you will hear this sound … “

How Television Works – 1939


The part about television starts 1:20 minutes into the video. Can you imagine people today watching a video
about how Facebook or YouTube works?


This video describes how the correct use of the typewriter eliminates

The Telephone and Telegraph (and the Fax)-


Want a job in the telegraph industry? Then this is a “must-see” video. Some
highlights from the clip:

• “Early equipment was
crude” … . (Oh yeah? Take a look at the ‘modern’ stuff in this video!)


• “In this operating room,
hundreds of girls receive and transmit messages on batteries of teleprinters …
Those with ability and experience may be promoted … .

• “Job opportunities for men
exist in the maintenance of all transmission equipment … “

• Want to get ahead in life? —
The video suggests becoming a telegram messenger to establish business contacts
with the people to whom you deliver telegrams! (Hey, what about LinkedIn?)


The fax machine is even described here (3:50)

The Kodak Instamatic Movie Camera (1967)


“The camera that is so easy to load and to use … .that even a
busy mother can do it … There’s no finer gift for any wife this Christmas … and
it costs less than $40.”

Internet in 1969


In this video, the wife shops online and watches the “kiddie-cam,”
the husband pays the bills, accesses bank accounts, and sends “email” using a
stylus on a flat screen.


This clip hypes the potential of the Internet, circa 1993:

“For $200 a year, 15 million people are ‘sharing scientific
data, arguing philosophy, and passing on cooking tips and gossip … “What else can
you do? You put out a general question … and
wait … .”

Hmm … almost a complete minute of possible Internet uses and
nary a word of porn or gambling …

Send me links to similar clips if you have any.


About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.