Internet Breadcrumbs

Jim Warner’s radio in the back cabin of the Southern Cross looks primitive by today’s standards.

This week, as part of my ongoing research for On Wings of Steel, I have been looking at the effect that modern technologies have had on the way stories are told, and re-told, beginning with the development of radio broadcasting technology in the late 1920s.

It was due to the increasing availability of radios, or crystal sets, in people’s homes that the human stories of the epic first flight across the Pacific could be told, in real time, to ordinary people sitting in their lounge rooms. The heroic exploits of Ulm and Smithy (Kingsford Smith) were made much more real and immediate than had ever been possible before. One man who listened through the night said, ‘I felt as if I was right up there with them, all the way.’ The ups and downs of the journey, the moments of exhilaration, the moments of fear and deep despair, were written down by Ulm in the cockpit, on scraps of paper, and transferred to Jim Warner, the radio operator in the back cabin of the Southern Cross. Jim would then send them, in Morse code, out to La Perouse radio receiving station. They were then translated into normal speech and sent to radio announcers in their studios, who would read them out to the world.

Today we have internet breadcrumbs used in a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel, and a mobile phone on which the Tooth Fairy, April Underhill, receives instructions about a boy who has lost a tooth in her neighbourhood. Not only are April and her sister Esme able to access the address where they will find this tooth and exchange it for a gold coin, but their mother, anxiously waiting at home for them to return, can also be contacted for advice – should the two novice fairies need it. ‘Send me a text,’ she tells them as they leave, obviously conscious to avoid the sound of voices and a ringing phone on this secret mission into a sleeping household.

What fascinating times we live in! And what a rich seam of ideas to be mined by today’s writers, storytellers and illustrators.

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