by Charles A. Monagan
Jul 11, 2011
10:04 AM
On Connecticut

The Future Is Now


I was recently flipping through the archives of The Connecticut Circle, which was the precursor to Connecticut Magazine, and I discovered this quasi-prescient piece from the August 1939 issue by Alfred H. Morton, the manager of NBC's fledgling television network, entitled, "The Man Who Knows Tells Us About Television."

Here's some of what he wrote about the medium, still in its infancy at the time:

Television is here and everyone seems to be talking about it, but it is still hard for us to believe our eyes. Seeing President Roosevelt, seeing King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, seeing the Lou Nova-Max Baer fight at Yankee Stadium—these and a dozen other spectacular telecasts should pretty thoroughly convince even the most skeptical that a new medium of mass communication, probably the greatest of them all, has made its debut.

Hundreds, probably thousands, of people who live in southern Connecticut have seen television. Some of them have receivers in their own homes and tune in regularly on NBC's telecasts from Radio City. Friends and acquaintances of these fortunate pioneer televiewers have sat spellbound while absorbing plays, hilarious vaudeville turns, musical comedy acts, fashion shows and educational features presented themselves in the proscenium of a new home theatre.

Just what is this thing called television? Leaving aside the technical details which make television one of the scientific miracles of the age, it is radio, it is the theatre—one might even say that it is life itself, liberated from age-old fetters, winging through a magic window onto the world. In the interests of strict economy, I must confess that television's achievements fall a little short of this. But no one who is aware of what is going on in the NBC studios and the laboratories of the Radio Corporation of America, and other developers of television, doubts that television will one day bring the world into the American living room . . . .

I have mentioned a few of the achievements of television so far. There will be some, perhaps, who believe that because of my close association with television, I may be inclined to exaggerate. To those I can only advise that they see for themselves. They will find, as I have found, that television has a special flavor—an intimate appeal in its entertainment, striking new methods of popular education and a unique way of catching the thrill of news in the making.

The actual record of television so far is so startling that the temptation is strong to predict its future. It would be an easy matter to foresee nationwide networks with a whole people, perhaps many peoples, sitting in on the inauguration of a President or the coronation of a king in Westminster Abbey. Fleet halfbacks will probably go zig-zagging across the televisions screens for the winning touchdown, and eminent savants of the associated colleges will teach the multitudes.

Seventy-two years later and Morton pretty much hit the nail on the head, from the global spread of the medium to sports becoming a big part of what we watch. He even kind of mentions TV as "life itself," a.k.a. reality television, although he didn't mention the part about Snooki. Then again, who could've seen that coming?

The Future Is Now

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