The 1950s: Technology

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One of the things I enjoy about setting something in the 1950s is the technology. It’s a world of difference from now (and sometimes I have to remind myself of that while writing). For example:

Technology we have now, that we had then: Guns are pretty much the same. Everything else that is a part of the story has changed a lot.

– Phones are entirely different than they used to be. Now most people have cellphones (and smart phones are gaining on feature phones), less people have landlines, and there is this thing called the internet. In the 1950s, nobody had a wireless phone. Everything was a landline and connected to a business or a home. There were pay phones. Actual, real-live operators handled many calls. Reaching people instantly was a dream if they weren’t by a phone.

– Voice recorders, video recorders, and cameras were entirely different. Ron has to learn to use a dark room. His starter voice recorder is just for the office — then he gets one that is the size of a backpack. There is no video recording of any real note or use in his price range. So the spying sort of private detective activities pretty much happens in black and white photographs. In with the above, answering machine technology was very basic if it existed at all.

– There was no internet to look things up on. News traveled by radio, newspapers, or a television broadcast. Information had to be found at a library or other records offices.

– The Xerox machine wasn’t introduced until 1959. So copies of documents were difficult to come by unless there was a carbon copy.

– It’s not technology, but the interstate road system as we know it today was started in the 1950s. Getting from town to town required a lot more traveling, even when they were close (for example, the fictional Escagoula Point to New Orleans. Now, it’s an hour drive from the rough location that EP would be. Then, it was two hours on a good day and that’s only because New Orleans is an important port. Going from two small towns… yikes.)

There are other differences (including police procedure, obvious social and political differences, etc), but those are some pretty major ones that relate to Ron’s issues with catching the villains. Kate, starting in the 1920s, had a whole ‘nother set of problems!