The Virtual House



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1930s advertisment for a variety of radio sets Cole Brothers 1930s radios - click image to enlarge

In the first half of the twentieth century, home entertainment meant just one thing - the radio.

A red 'retro' style radio available at the John Lewis Store
Retro-style radio

Whole families would sit round the radio to listen to their favourite music shows, the news, or soap operas. That wasn’t quite as difficult as it sounds, because radios were massive contraptions, not the pocket-sized things they often are today.

A radio detects, or picks up, radio waves with its aerial, and turns these into tiny electrical signals with its tuner. It then makes the signals stronger in its amplifier, and turns them into sound waves with its speakers. Radios run on electrical power, either from batteries inside the case, or from a plug and socket.

Modern portable radio available from the John Lewis Store
Modern radio

Japan has been the leader in music technology for half a century. During World War II, bombing destroyed almost every factory in the country. As a result of post-war rebuilding, Japan had very modern factories. In the 1950s, companies such as Sony and Sharp made their name with budget priced electronic goods that had sophisticated styling (usually black, with chrome details).

Sony also bought a licence to manufacture transistors which had been invented in the USA in 1947. With tiny transistors to conduct electricity, the Japanese inventors could create ever-smaller appliances like pocket radios. In the 1950s plastic-shelled radios were produced in modern colours like pastel pinks and lemon yellows.

Thanks to modern technology and the small size of many modern appliances, different people now tend to do their own things in their own space rather than as a family.

While dad is watching football in the living room, mum might be watching EastEnders upstairs. In other rooms, the kids might be surfing on the internet or playing computer games on their games console.


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