Early 20th Century PA systems?

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  • Early 20th Century PA systems?

    Does anyone know if microphones and indoor PA systems were around in 1901? I have a scene where I want a dignitary to address a large crowd at a banquet. Searches so far reference "early 20th century" and "1920's and 30's" microphones, but nothing specific to the first decade. If not microphones, what did they use, bullhorns?

  • #2
    Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

    The horse racing results for 1901 give 'Microphone Operator' as a credit - it was apparently a pretty important job in the scheme of things back then. (Note - any new technology will be used by the gambling or porn industries before anyone else)

    However, I'm not sure I've seen images of people making public announcements with microphones back then - so it seems a bit curious.

    Believe it or not - we actually have live video recorded in 1901 of public speeches:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO5Az...eature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8fd396pW_c

    Still photo:
    http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cp...0/3b17645r.jpg

    It's amazing that they thought of videoing a speech - before they thought of using a damned microphone and speakers !

    I wonder what we are overlooking now that future generations will be confused over.

    Mac
    (Another confusing historical tidbit - we invented the airplane before we invented mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

    Yep - humans figured out flying machines before we realized that putting air into the lungs of someone who wasn't breathing by themselves was useful!

    What is wrong with our species?)
    Last edited by Mac H.; 08-16-2010, 05:09 AM.
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    • #3
      Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

      According to ehow...

      Prototypes for modern public address systems began with the arc transmitter known as Poulsen were invented in 1903, which would eventually lead to the establishment of the Magnavox Company and the patent for the moving coil principle at the root of sound reproduction. Beginning experiments with the carbon microphone used in early transmitters, inventors Peter L. Jensen and Valdemar Poulsen added the essential 12-volt battery that enabled the first long-reaching public address. They placed the machine on the roof and for the first time amplified speech.
      Public Unveiling

      The first public usage of the address system is estimated at around 1908 and accounts by those present claim the sound could be heard distinctly at least a mile away. Technology advanced again in 1915 when Governor Hiram Johnson planned to address a crowd at San Francisco's Civic Auditorium but was struck by a severe cold. Miles away from the auditorium in his home, the governor spoke into a microphone connected to a speaker in the auditorium and in the process proved it was possible to speak remotely in larger buildings if they were properly amplified.


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      • #4
        Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

        Thanks guys. Found pretty much the same thing here: http://www.microphone-data.com/pdfs/History.pdf

        It looks like my Mayor will have to shout or use a bullhorn if he wants to be heard. That'll probably be more cinematic, anyway.

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        • #5
          Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

          Perhaps a megaphone?
          We're making a movie here, not a film! - Kit Ramsey

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          • #6
            Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

            Originally posted by billmarq View Post
            Perhaps a megaphone?
            Megaphone! Duh, of course! I had the picture in my head of cheerleaders shouting through that cone-like thingamagiggy, but just couldn't get it to where it needed to be in my brain.

            I wonder what it was like to be a speaker in front of a large gathering back then. Did they really use a megaphone or shout until they were hoarse?

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            • #7
              Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

              I have a scene where I want a dignitary to address a large crowd at a banquet
              I don't have any special knowledge of the technical state of the art at the time, but my impression is that people making public speeches did not use anything to amplify themselves. I think the tradition of stentorian oratory was strong (and remains so to some extent today in public political speechmaking, even with amplification). I don't know your character of course, but the scene could offer a chance to show him as a blustery sort of fellow, which I'm guessing is the way most politicians/dignitaries sounded then (and still do, largely).

              I can't recall seeing any old photos of politicians/dignitaries using a megaphone or the like. I would say people like law officers or military personnel and such would have used megaphones, but it would look a bit undignified and awkward for politician to use one, especially at a banquet, which is a somewhat formal setting.

              The voice-of-god style of speaking/announcing continued strongly in the early decades of radio broadcasting and a more natural style of broadcast speaking/speechmaking did not really come along until the 50s.

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              • #8
                Re: Early 20th Century PA systems?

                Originally posted by Donreel View Post
                I don't have any special knowledge of the technical state of the art at the time, but my impression is that people making public speeches did not use anything to amplify themselves. I think the tradition of stentorian oratory was strong (and remains so to some extent today in public political speechmaking, even with amplification). I don't know your character of course, but the scene could offer a chance to show him as a blustery sort of fellow, which I'm guessing is the way most politicians/dignitaries sounded then (and still do, largely).

                I can't recall seeing any old photos of politicians/dignitaries using a megaphone or the like. I would say people like law officers or military personnel and such would have used megaphones, but it would look a bit undignified and awkward for politician to use one, especially at a banquet, which is a somewhat formal setting.

                The voice-of-god style of speaking/announcing continued strongly in the early decades of radio broadcasting and a more natural style of broadcast speaking/speechmaking did not really come along until the 50s.
                Very interesting DR. Fascinating how over the top shouting, gesticulations by modern day politicians and the like may have evolved from a time when it was a necessity to do so.

                Yes, in the scene I referenced, my character, a minor one, is a popular politician and skilled orator. There will be other scenes where prosecutors and the like will be addressing crowds. Making them charismatic and needing to shout, certainly makes for fun writing.

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