The Top 10 for the 20th Century: Mass Media

By Saltzman, Joe | USA TODAY, November 1999 | Go to article overview

The Top 10 for the 20th Century: Mass Media


Saltzman, Joe, USA TODAY


Twentieth-century media dramatically changed the y we look at and understand the world. The 10 major media developments that helped to do this were:

Radio. The first regular radio broadcasts began in America in 1909. In 1920, KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcast the first scheduled programs and transmitted the first live radio broadcast. In 1927, NBC had begun two radio networks and CBS was formed. Lowell Thomas broadcast the first regular network newscast in 1930. Radio made it possible for anyone anywhere to hear news events around the world. It changed people's perceptions forever about the world around them.

Television. The first commercial broadcast took place in 1939, when television made its American debut at the New York World's Fair. Regular TV broadcasting began in the U.S. in 1941. NBC presented the first U.S. network newscast in 1944, and, in 1951, the coaxial cable reached coast to coast. Television gave the world its sight. With TV, we not only could hear the way the world sounded, but also see it in action. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Computers. Intel built the single-chip microprocessor--"a computer on a chip"--in 1971. The first mass market personal computers were launched in 1977. The laptop computer was introduced in 1981. Computers have changed the way people work, produce, think, create, imagine, and communicate.

The World Wide Web and the Internet. The WWW revolutionized the Internet in 1989 and, four years later, the Internet launched the information highway. Instant communication and instant access to information became available to anyone who could afford the cheapest of computers or had a library card. It revolutionized how we got and handled information and changed the way we communicate.

The paper copier. Xerox manufactured a plain paper copier in 1959, making it possible to instantly copy any document and save or send a facsimile of the original. Anyone could become an instant publisher, and information was easily made available.

Communications satellites. The first communications satellite was placed in geosynchronous orbit in 1963. The Early Bird Intelsat I orbited above the Atlantic in 1965 and completed a global communications satellite loop in 1968. Communications satellites revolutionized the delivery of information.

Videocassette recorders. In 1964, Japan created the VCR for home use. By 1991, three out of four U.S. homes owned VCRs, as the videocassette machine became the fastest-selling domestic appliance in history. Now, anyone could record anything off TV and save it for future viewing. Instantly, personal video libraries were created.

The transistor. Three Bell Labs scientists invented the transistor to replace vacuum tubes during 1947-48. By 1952, Sony offered the first miniature transistor radio. Two years later, transistor radios made it possible to listen to news and other programs anywhere.

The paperback. In 1935, Penguin produced a paperback book that sold for the price of 10 cigarettes and altered the way people used the written word. Paperbacks revolutionized the way people read books.

Cordless telephones. In 1967, the first cordless telephones received calls. …

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