A recent book purchase was A Century of Punch (1956), a weighty collection of drawings from the humour magazine edited by RE Williams. While much of the comedy is now very dated, many of the illustrations and cartoons yield other pleasures, not least by being a fascinating snapshot of the times and their attitudes. Some of those attitudes remain with us, and the handful of drawings below struck me for their resonance with current discussions about the impact of new technology. But first, here’s a far-sighted prediction from 1878 (note: Ceylon is now Sri Lanka):
EDISON’S TELEPHONOSCOPE (Artist unknown)
Paterfamilias (in Wilton Place): “Beatrice, come closer, I want to whisper.”
Beatrice (from Ceylon): “Yes, Papa Dear.”
Paterfamilias: “Who is that charming young lady playing on Charlie’s side?”
Beatrice: “She’s just come over from England, Papa. I’ll introduce you to her as soon as the game’s over.”
We hear a lot today about technology keeping people separated. This is from 1906:
DEVELOPMENT OF WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY. SCENE IN HYDE PARK.
(These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady is receiving an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results.)
(Artist: Lewis Baumer)
Then there’s the recurring argument that films, TV, computer games, etc, distract children from reading. This from 1920:
HERO WORSHIP. DISTRACTIONS OF THE FILM WORLD.
(Artist: Frank Reynolds)
Or maybe they don’t… Many of the 1950s cartoons concern the new novelty of television. This is from 1954:
“We’re rather worried about William.”
(Artist: William Sillince)