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    How life has changed in the past 100 years

    1) The Evolution of Communication

    The continual development of new methods of communication has changed the world. Scroll back through the years to see how the way we communicate over time and distance has changed in the past 100 years.


    Letters were the most popular way to communicate over long distances in the early 1900s. A first class stamp cost a halfpenny, approximately 43p in today’s money. It usually took a day to send and receive a letter, depending on the time you managed to post it, but could take up to 10 weeks to send a letter to Sydney. (Now, the same trip takes approximately 5 days.)



    By 1910, 73 million telegrams were being sent yearly. Messages were received within 4 minutes and it became one of the first methods of communication to connect the world. It would cost a sixpence for every nine words (roughly £2.00 today) and for every additional word it would be another penny (45p). As a result, people shortened their words to what could arguably be the first text talk; “73” meant cheers and “ii:” stood for ‘OK’ or ‘will do’.


    In 1915 Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, made the first transcontinental phone call, taking an excruciating 23 minutes for the lines to connect. But it was during the 1930s that the telephone became the common method for communicating across large distances. Phone calls worked via a system of telephone operators, who connected the two lines manually.

    Mobile Radio Phone

    Mobile / Radio Phone

    Sending and receiving important messages quickly was vital during the war, making these radio phones essential in the efforts to win. Communicating via a radio signal, they were used in war propaganda too, with Roosevelt’s famous fireside chats sent straight to the living rooms of the Allied countries.


    Initially used to share weather reports across the world, the Radiofax was created by Richard Ranger and Arthur Korn in the 1950s. The fax then became widely used across offices and later in homes during the 1960s and 1970s. Being able to send images over radio signal was a game changer for many people. The same Radiofax is still used to transmit maritime weather maps today.



    Although Email first appeared in the 1960s, it wasn’t widely used until the 1970s. The ability to send messages between two computers was revolutionary and is now a core part of everyday life for people and businesses all over the world. Ray Tomlinson created the email address, consisting of ‘name of the person you wanted to send the email to @ the name of the computer’. This then became the most common method of sending and receiving text based messages across long distances.

    Handheld Mobile Phone

    Marty Cooper invented the first handheld mobile phone for Motorola. The phone did not go on sale until 1980, but this historic invention marked the beginning of one of the biggest changes in the history of communication.

    Handheld Mobile (Motorola)
    First emoji

    The First Emoji

    Scott Fahlman is believed to have kick started the world of emoticons and emojis in 1982, by sending an email including the :-) emoticon. He posted it to a university message board as a suggestion for how to tell the difference between a serious post and a funny post.

    SMS Text Messages

    In the 1990s, Tegic co-founder Cliff Kushler invented T9 texting, where the texting system would try to learn the words and phrases inputted into it, then making an educated guess about the word you were trying to type. Later on, Nokia introduced full QWERTY keyboards on phones to make texting even easier. Phones usually had a 160 character limit, so modern day “text language” to help us fit all we wanted to say into a relatively short space.

    SMS Test Messages
    WhatsApp & IM messages

    WhatsApp & Instant Messaging

    The birth of instant messaging changed the world. Now, we’re able to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world (with signal) in real time. Whatsapp was invented in 2009 and by 2016, it had over a billion users. No more making phone calls at certain times from public telephone boxes, no waiting for letters for weeks and weeks. These instant messaging systems have revolutionised the way we communicate with each other and who knows where they’ll take us next.

    2) The Evolution of Dating

    The eternal quest to find love has developed significantly over the years, but there’s always been some kind of formula to follow or platform that helps. Whether it’s a dinner date, a dance, a club or an app, the ways we look for love have remained fairly similar.

    Family Influence

    In the 1900s, ensuring your potential partner’s family were happy played a huge part in their approval of your relationship. Men would leave a calling card in the parents’ house of the lady they were interested in. The card was the first indicator of whether he was worthy of their daughter, giving an idea of who the man was and what he did. The parents would then act as chaperone at the first few meetings between their daughter and potential love interest (and public displays of affection were frowned upon).



    Men would visit the family home of their love interest to ask for permission to take the daughter out. Dates were chaperoned from a distance and couples would go for walks or appear in other dignified public places together. Society dances and dance halls were still common and another place where people could meet (but also with a chaperone).

    Dinner Dates

    In the 1920s, the dinner date was a popular way of assessing a potential suitor. Men would more openly invite women out on dates and couples were allowed to go unchaperoned to public restaurants. Women were encouraged to stick to particular rules, like not getting drunk and no public displays of affection. It was expected the man would pay for the date to prove they could look after the woman and, if wealthy enough, pick her up and drop her off in his automobile.

    Dinner date
    Dating soldier

    Dating During the War

    At the start of the war and well into the 40s, eligible suitors became scarce with men heading off to war, and women were left wondering if their betrothed would ever come home. The couple would leave something with one another as a keepsake to remember them by. Most men kept a picture of their loved one on their person to remind them what they were fighting for and what they’d go home to, whilst the woman would receive a ring or item of clothing. (This led to the term ‘Going Steady’.)

    Hanging Out

    Couples ventured further afield than they had ever done before. Modern dating saw couples going to places far away or for long drives, “hanging out” in public and spending much longer together alone. Dating became more intimate, with public displays of affection becoming much more accepted and encouraged by couples.

    Modern dating
    80s dating

    Modern Dating

    Women and men had much more freedom to make their own decisions on partners, going where they wanted, when they wanted with whoever they wanted. Couples would commonly meet at bars, concerts, parks, and other public areas, as people would date multiple partners before one was “chosen”. Men began to use classic pick-up lines with a surprisingly good success rate!

    Online Dating

    Match.com launched in 1995. Whilst this wasn’t the first ever dating site, it was by far the most comprehensive online matchmaking service. People would create their online profiles and find their perfect partner by viewing and assessing the interests of others profiles. By 2015, Match.com stated they had over 59 million users looking for love on their website.

    Online dating
    Online Relationships

    Online Relationships

    While online dating may have started online in the nineties, the introduction of instant messaging, more comprehensive email and social media platforms allowed for long-distance relationships to prosper during the noughties. While the internet facilitated the ability to create and build relationships, it also hindered them; hiding behind a computer allowed partners to be more carefree and conduct multiple relationships, but it was much easier to get caught out.

    Dating Apps

    The “hot or not?” model of rating your peers was born in the early 2000s, evolving into Dating Apps a few years later. Based on this quick-decision formula, “matching” with someone on these apps through mutual approval of one another would lead to dates and/or hook ups. Tinder, Happ’n, Bumble and more provide a platform to connect the time poor youth of today. Although these free apps are convenient and accessible to all, finding love in modern society is still as tricky as it was 50 years ago.

    Dating apps

    3) The Evolution of Photography

    Capturing those memorable moments has evolved drastically over the past 100 years. From film, to video, to smart phones, we look back at how photography has progressed over time to become a part of everyday life.

    Kodak Brownie

    The first affordable camera was the Kodak Brownie, costing just 5 shillings (approximately 25p in today’s money). The film roll used for processing was equally as cheap, which meant taking and developing photos fast became a hobby for the masses.

    Kodak Brownie
    Oscar Barnack

    35mm Film

    Oscar Barnack was the inventor of the 35mm film, still used as the standard today, and later the 35mm camera, which eliminated the need to resize photographs. The resulting aspect ratio of 3:2 became the early cinema standard, and remained for the next 100+ years.

    Leica I

    In 1924, Barnack tested a number of different cameras, eventually falling on the Leica I. Creating small, sharp negatives using a high quality 50mm f/3.5 lens and focal plane shutter with speeds of 1/20 – 1/500 second produced the best high resolution images, and quickly became widely used.

    The Leica
    Fuji Photo Film

    Fuji Move into Cameras

    The first Japanese film producer, Fuji Photo Film co. Ltd, was born in 1934 as part of a grand government plan to establish a photographic industry in film making. By 1938, Fuji began to make cameras and lenses in addition to film, with each roll costing £1.26 (roughly £37 in real terms).

    The SLR Camera

    In the late 1940s the Contax S SLR camera was introduced by VEB Zeizz Ikon. This new camera introduced an un-reversed image in a newly invented pentaprism eye level viewfinder. Brand new, this SLR cost £170.56, about £436.27 in today’s money.

    Contax S
    Nikon F

    The Nikon F

    Introducing: the near indestructible Nikon F! If you were serious about your photography, the Nikon F was a must have, with a fast response, easy to use automatic operation, and comparatively smaller than its competitor SLR cameras. The well-known New York camera repairman Marty Forcher was quoted saying that the camera was much “like a hockey puck”.

    The Polaroid SX-70

    In 1972 the Polaroid SX-70 was invented. Easy to use and developing photos in seconds, this was the first consumer camera for anyone looking to capture those moments and look back on them right away. The Polaroid really helped make photography more mainstream - anyone with an interest in photography could get involved without having to specialise or be an expert to enjoy it. This ease of use came with a hefty price tag at the time of £70 and £2.70 per roll of film.

    Polaroid SX-70
    The Minolta Maxxum 7000

    Auto Focus

    The world’s first auto-focused camera helped the difficult task, mastered by a few professional photographers, of ensuring that the object was in focus when the photograph was developed. This new technology probably wasn’t for the casual amateur photographer, with a price tag of £486.29.

    The Camera Phone

    The Sharp J-SH04 was the first mobile phone that came with the ability to take photographs. The ‘selfie’ came into play a lot earlier than you may have thought, with a mirror placed on the front so you could take a photograph of yourself. You could then send images to your computer to edit, print, download or do anything else you wanted to. The phone cost you £309.43 for a 110,000 pixel camera capable of 125 minutes talk time, numbers that are dwarfed by smart phones today.

    Sharp J-SH04

    Photo Sharing & Instagram

    In 2010, Instagram was born. A combination of a photo sharing network, popular filters and a distinctive square frame photo for upload made Instagram stand out amongst its competitors. Since its inception, Instagram has over 500 million active monthly users, providing a platform for us to upload, share, comment and enjoy the captured experiences of our friends, families, idols and more.

    4) The Evolution of Music/Entertainment

    Technological advancements have changed the way we consume entertainment significantly over the last 100 years. The equipment used to either play or record music, or forms of visual entertainment have become smaller and smaller, whilst improving their quality with each new platform.

    Gramophones & Theatres

    In the 1900s, music was listened to on a Gramophone. The most common method of playing your favourite music was through the 10 inch disc record, developed in 1901, which had a play-time of 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, more tangible entertainment came in the form of theatre, live orchestras and the opera.

    Record Player

    The Birth of Hollywood

    Fast forward ten years, and In Old California was the first film to be shot in Hollywood. Directed by D.W. Griffith, he discovered the village of Hollywood had the perfect scenery for his film, unknowingly changing the future of this little village and the film industry. In 1911 David Horsley (a New Jersey film producer) officially opened Hollywood’s first motion picture studio, called the Christie Film Company. There are now approximately 600 movies made in Hollywood every year.

    The Silent Era of Cinema

    Welcome to the golden age of The Silent Era of Cinema! Movies became big business and by the end of the decade, there were more than 20 Hollywood studios. Silent films were becoming bigger, longer and better; Charlie Chaplin, the King of Comedy, made 12 films in the 1920s and was considered to be the most famous person on the planet.

    Silent film
    Electric Televisor

    The Television Era Begins

    John Logie Baird created the first electric television in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 14th March 1930 that the first television broadcast, with both sound and vision, was aired. The BBC/Baird television service was now fully functional and from this moment on, the future of entertainment changed entirely. A regular broadcasting schedule was established and viewers could watch sports, cartoons, dramas and much more. (However, programmes were halted in 1939 after the outbreak of WW2.)

    Car Radios

    Originally introduced in the 1920s, car radios were not common-place until the mid-1940s. While this movement was more advanced in America, it was also popular in the UK, so much so, that the UK Treasury imposed a 33% purchase tax on car radios in 1947. This was the first example of sound and music on the move.

    Car Radio
    Reel to reel

    Reel to Reel & 3D

    In the 1950s, the reel-to-reel recording device was developed and was the earliest format of what we would come to know as the 8-track and VHS tapes. But this wasn’t the only development during this decade. From 1952 onwards, cinema entered the “golden era” of 3D. Although 3D films had been around in some way or another since the 1910s, it was in the 50s where this phenomenon was introduced to the wider public.

    Colour Television

    In July 1967, the UK launched their first ever full colour TV service, overseen by the legendary David Attenborough. In 1969 the colour TV service was extended to BBC One and ITV, giving the UK three full colour television channels before the 1970s. Wimbledon was one of the first programmes ever to be aired in colour, whilst popular colour TV shows included Dad’s Army and Dr. Who.

    Colour TV

    Walkman and Cassette Tapes

    The Walkman and Cassette tapes brought portable music playing devices to the masses. While people began to listen to music on the go, taking movies home with you also became an option, with the VHS player being introduced in the 1970s.

    Compact Disc (CD)

    In 1982 the compact disc was invented, shrinking the size of the vinyl and simplifying the complex mechanics of the tape. The CD player was released by Sony in October, two months after the CD. This gave the ability to travel even lighter whilst listening to music, all 74 minutes of it.


    MP3 file extension

    The early 1990s saw the largest shift the industry had experienced - the ability to download music files from the comfort of your own home, limited only by the capacity of your computer. However, this also opened up the ability for music to be transferred easily over the internet, which led to a large increase in music piracy.

    On-Demand Entertainment

    In 2003, Apple envisioned a platform for paid music downloads to be available on a device that you could fit into your pocket. The first stage of this was iTunes and the iPod; a platform where high quality music could be downloaded instantly and stored as an MP3 file to your computer for 99 cents a song. But it wasn’t just music that became ‘on-demand’; channels like the BBC offered online services where users could catch up on any telly they’d missed.


    The Birth of Streaming

    In 2010, what began as a small start-up exploded when Spotify gave users the ability to stream music for free. Netflix’s online rental service became the largest television and film streaming service in all of North America. In 2016, Netflix reportedly has 74.8million subscribers, and other similar platforms have emerged, like Amazon Instant Video. These services, including BBC iPlayer, now offer the option to download, so we can keep consuming entertainment, no matter where we are.

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