Radio Times/1923/12/21/Modern Witchcraft
Capturing sound waves vibrating the air is a marvellous romance, with possibilities few realize. Someone remarked that the discovery equals in importance the discovery of printing. Perhaps he was right.
Radio is the nearest thing to witchcraft the world has seen as yet, but before long we may see even more surprising things. The wizards who devote their lives to these investigations may discover how to capture vibrations of the human voice and other sounds, without their being transmitted through a receiver. Then, again, they may learn to capture the speech of yesterday or the day before, or the day before that. It is said that they have already succeeded in capturing recent speeches. These are horrid thoughts! How complicated life will be! And what a lot we shall have to dig up!
Think of going home in the evening when The Radio Time announces that the star turn will be a love scene between Antony and Cleopatra! Or the next night an interview between Queen Elizabeth and Drake, or instead of Kreisler a solo by Nero, intermingled with the crackling flames of burning Rome!
Reading and Radio.
However, at the moment we have quite enough to go on with speeches, concerts, lectures, etc., etc. Every age has its distinctive feature. There is some reason for calling this the "Matter of Fact Age." No one seems surprised at anything.
I do not profess to be a romantic, but the Radio gives me an uncanny feeling. Think of the mystery of these invisible agencies. There they are all about us. When you wave your hand in the air, you must be knocking all sorts of sounds on the head, but they do not care. You turn on the Ratho or a dozen Radios in the same room, and out they come uninjured. Then they nre the worst burglars in the world. They do not have to use jemmies or skeleton keys to open doors and windows. 1 hat get in through the walls. You cannot escape them. Locks, bolts, and bars are no good.
What effect is the Radio going to have on life? (By the way, I do not like the the description "wireless." Why describe a thing by a negation?) Are people going to read less? Are they going to talk less? Are they going to be better or worse informed? Are they going to the theatre and music-hall less? Are those who reside in rural districts going to be more or less satisfied? Who can tell? They are all difficult problems.
So far as the present generation is concerned I believe that those accustomed to read and who like reading will continue to read whether they use the Radio or not. But how about the next generation brought up on Radio? Are they going to prefer information through the medium of the ear to that through the medium of the eye?
There are many differing views concerning the effect of broadcasting speeches. Some people hold that listeners will not wish to read radioed speech in the newspapers on the following day—others that they will be all the keener to read them. I am not prepared to express an opinion. It is, however, certain that few people read long pitches. Most newspaper readers are caldera with the eyes of the speech prepared by the sub-editor. And when it comes to listening to speeches we fully remember that the spoken word differs from the punted word. Many speeches dull to read are attractive to hear. Some human voices have remarkable powers of magnetism. The matter may not be inspiring, but the charm of the voice arrests attention. The Radio has the merit of preserving this interesting quality. Of course, it has the further advantage that, without appearing discourteous, you can cut off a dull speaker when you have had enough of him. In his turn, he is not distressed by seeing his audience melting away one by one. He can still orate in the mistaken belief that ho is talking to millions.
I am much interested in the controversy regarding broadcasting plays. It looks as if Radio will afford opportunities for a new type of playwright and perhaps a new type of actor, just in the same way as the cinema has done. One thing is certain. Radio is only in ha childhood. What the grown-up creature is going to be, no one can say. New inventions have strange and unexpected repercussions. As the French remark. "Nothing is more surprising than the unexpected." What seems probable does not occur. Something quite different happens. But in this, as in other matters, it is useless to look too far ahead. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"—and the good also.
Nerves and Listening.
Radio will quicken and lighten life. Speeches which formerly had to be taken down in short-hand. transcribed, and circulated to the news-paper aims. will before long be received and printed almost direct from the speaker's mouth, thus saving delay and trouble. All these development.; mean more highly developed nervous systems, quicker hearing, quicker apprehension, and so forth.
Owing to the ever-increasing complexity and strain of life, many people view the future with alarm. They gloomily prophesy more nerves and more lunatics. There is, however, no need for apprehension. Man is the most adaptable of all animals. And so far as concerns the Radio, you need never try yourself too high. When you have had enough, you can always say, "Good night, Radio."