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PHIL 231H Student

a funny thing happened on the way to write this blog post…

The way I typically write, I begin with an eye-catching title. I wanted my title for this to be “The March of Time;” a phrase meaning, well, time moves ever forward. My intent with this title was to show the steady, and inevitable, progress technology had made and will continue to make throughout history. While looking for the originating place of the phrase (which I supposed doesn’t matter) I came across The March of Time.

The March of Time was a radio show turned newsreel and documentary series from 1935 to 1951. I started poking around since I don’t know much about newsreels, and in looking at the episode descriptions, I realized the timeframe of these reels was the perfect timeframe to discuss. In the first set of reels, played on 1 February 1935, there is a reel on the retirement of the then-general manager of the Metropolitan Opera (the Met) in New York City, but more importantly the “first sound pictures of the Met.” While I’m not entirely certain if this means sound films were played or some other technological innovation of the past that I can’t find, the main point is, there is a base technological innovation at the Met in 1935. Moving forward to the next set of reels, played on 8 March 1935, the last reel was about the new slow-motion camera. This, to me, shows the popularity of film and the progress towards new ideas for the medium. And then, a short 11 years later, 9 August 1946, the Academy Award-nominated documentary Atomic Power was released.

Now, I’m fully aware these are not linear timelines. Cameras didn’t turn into atomic bombs. But I believe it does show how the time shaped the progression of technology. The early 1930s saw many people affected by the Great Depression, but the wealthy were looking to be entertained; so, innovation through film, cameras, etc. made sense for the progression of that period. By the debut of the documentary in 1946, the end of World War II and the dropping of the bombs had been almost exactly a year prior. The atomic bombs were developed because the progression of society, and therefore technology, at that time deemed them “necessary.”

An even simpler connection to the necessity of technology to progress can be seen with The March of Time itself. As stated, it began as a radio show. As film began to grow into the massive success it is, the technology used for the show evolved from a radio show to a newsreel. Eventually of course the reels got longer and more advanced with their camera work, shots, and sound.

I would argue, and the research done for this post helps validate the idea, that there is a linear timeline for the necessary progression of technology, and its impact on the progression of society.

What do you think?

2 replies on “a funny thing happened on the way to write this blog post…”

This struck me: “The atomic bombs were developed because the progression of society, and therefore technology, at that time deemed them “necessary.”” I suppose I wonder how a concept like “progression of society” does anything, let alone make new technology and make it necessary. This question of progress has plagued me for a while. My point here is that it’s weird to think of time or progress doing anything. We assume that technological advancement goes hand in hand with time’s movement, but there are whole periods of human history in which nothing like this happens. And, in fact, in which tools and knowledge are destroyed. Don’t get me wrong, this is a common idea. It’s the embedded in our culture. But, I wonder if we can’t question it…

It is interesting to take this point of view that technology was developed because of the time period and what people think are necessary for that time. It is really amazing how people can be motivated to develop something because they feel it is necessary in that time. The atomic bombs being developed was a very interesting example to show how technology was developed because of a time period. It is really amazing how fast things have developed and how we now have cameras that can basically capture anything and the devices that can capture amazing pictures can be in the form of a phone as well. We can call, take pictures, and go online with all the same device and it is small enough to fit into our pants pocket. Over time the devices went from just standard and wanting to film and take pictures to wanting to basically anything on the smallest form: a cellphone. As one of my old teachers used to say “they are pocket computers”. We can do everything a computer can do on our phones and it is truly amazing that all that can be put into something as small as a phone can get.

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