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Week Nine: Telephones and the Democratization of Instant Communication

This week focuses on the spread of telephones and increased communication.  In the Lecture (approximately 30 minutes), Jeff Wiltse takes up the national telephone and technology story, dealing with how telephones changed rural America. Maps & Cityscapes presents images that reveal how the technology of telephones and electricity changed the look and feel of cities and towns.

Tribal Perspectives includes oral and written testimonies of increased poverty on the reservations, in contrast to the “progress” for more mainstream rural communities.  In People and the Humanities we examine the life of inventor Nikola Tesla and present images of telephones and their operation around our region.  In Research we present our top reading and film choices.

Assignment suggestions for this week’s content include:

  • How does technology change our lives?  What other kinds of technology have transformed American society and culture?  Should we discuss the issues around technological development and should government limit it in any way?
  • Why does there seem to be so little written about such an important topic?  What other important issues have historians ignored?
  • How did the arrival of the telephone change your area?  What were the positive and negative effects?
  • What if you were in charge of allowing or disallowing change in your community and you had a “Seven Generation” guideline for considering the introduction of telephones?  That is to say that you would consider the possible ramifications down to the seventh generation to come.  What would you decide?
  • What can photographs reveal about the changes brought by new technology?

Final pole of the first transcontinental telephone line, placed into service on June 17, 1914, at Wendover, Utah. http://history.utah.gov/news_and_events/

Alexander Graham Bell