How did you live before the internet

How did communication work in the past?

Today: the cell phone can do almost everything

We all know it: the first thing in the morning is the cell phone. How is the weather going to be today? Has anyone written to me? When is my train coming? If you want to meet up with your friends, send a WhatsApp or just give them a call. Thanks to technological inventions that accompany our everyday lives, almost everyone is networked with everyone. You can follow the life of your friends, but also that of complete strangers, on social media. We can hardly imagine a time without the Internet. But how did it go with your grandparents and great-grandparents back then, when there was still no internet and, above all, no cell phones?

Many letters were written 100 years ago

Til and Sebastian asked themselves this question at the Museum for Communication. The tour there shows the development from the beginnings of human communication to the Internet revolution. Back then, before that World wide web was not yet accessible to everyone, communication over longer distances looked completely different.

In the past, many letters were written to convey messages to one another. These were sent to the recipient in the mail. However, the mail was not transported by extremely fast trains or even by air, as it is today, but by steamboats or railways.

About 150 years ago, before the first steam locomotives, mail was also transported by horses and carriages. Accordingly, it took a long time for the letters to arrive. People usually had to wait weeks for answers. It's unthinkable for us, isn't it? Later in history, the stagecoaches were also used to transport people


But when things had to be done quickly, there were so-called telegrams up until the 20th century. These had to be limited to as few characters as possible, so that the sentences were often very short and ticked off. The messages had to be dictated to a postal worker and then sent to other post offices in the vicinity of the recipient by means of electrical signals. From there a messenger delivered the message.

The radio

In 1923 a groundbreaking invention found its way to Germany: the radio. But in contrast to today, the device was not a matter of course for everyone. In the period after World War I, every radio had to be approved and radio license fees had to be paid. Under the rule of Adolf Hitler, the radio was even misused to spread nationalist ideas. In the 1970s, however, radio evolved too slowly into what we know today. Music, news and radio plays were available to everyone and families gathered around the radio to listen to the program. Because there wasn't a TV yet ...

As you can see, the radios looked very different then than they do today. Current radios have two large speakers on either side. That is not the case here. In addition, there was of course neither a CD nor a cassette player. Would you have even recognized this device as a radio?

Television - black and white in the beginning

Around 1950 television began to slowly replace radio as the most popular medium. But even television, then still in black and white, was not initially accessible to everyone. Many did not have the money to buy such an expensive device. Many shops had televisions in their windows. That is why there were often many people standing in front of the windows and watching the news. The families who owned televisions could only watch certain channels. You could count these on one hand. Hard to imagine since we have over 60 channels to choose from today, right?

A lot has also changed structurally. While the screens were very small back then, we are used to huge televisions today. In the picture you can see that there were still large boxes on the devices to accommodate all the technology. These models were called tube devices. They were sold until early 2000. It was not until 2005 that they were increasingly replaced by flat-screen televisions.

The beginnings of the telephone

Up until 1970, many German families did not have their own telephone. For many it was a priceless luxury item. As a result, the people who owned a phone often had the problem that they couldn't talk to most of their friends on the phone.

What you probably don't know anymore are the dials. You had to put your finger in the hole of the desired number. Then you turned the disc to a marked point and let go again. The whole thing had to be repeated until the whole number was dialed. Pretty awkward. Fortunately, the landline numbers back then were much shorter than our cell phone numbers today. At that time there were no cell phones and of course you couldn't take the phones out with you. Partly because they were hanging on a short string and you couldn't even carry them around the apartment when making calls.

But if you had to make a phone call in the street, you would use phone booths. These shaped the streetscape from 1920. Today you hardly ever see any in German cities. Since almost everyone owns a cell phone today, they have lost their importance and usefulness.

The Internet - it is impossible to imagine life today without it

With the global breakthrough of the Internet in 1990 at the latest, human communication has fundamentally changed. As with the television sets, you can see how boxy and heavy the first computers were. Over time, they too had to give way to flat screens. For many people at the time, it was a big change to use the new technical devices everywhere in their everyday lives, now they have become indispensable. Children grow up with digital media and old communication channels, such as writing letters or the radio, are increasingly being replaced by WhatsApp or Spotify.