I know this commercial has been around for some time now — it premiered during the Super Bowl — but I just like seeing all the “old” technology in it. It’s like a museum in a Hyundai commercial! The commercial is titled “Anachronistic City” and you can read more details about it — like who made it — here.
If you want to see old communications technology up close and personal, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. is of course a good place to start. It is the official national museum for such things, after all. Their collection of early communication technologies includes Alexander Graham Bell’s box telephone and a Morse telegraph register.
But if you really want to get close to history and “antique” cell phones — or even much older technology — small-town museums can actually pack quite the “historical” punch. For example, the Antique Wireless Association maintains a museum in the small village of East Bloomfield, N.Y., which is chock-full of artifacts from the early days of electronic communication. This association builds its collection through donations — and sometimes even picking up historic objects that have been left for junk. They have everything from Morse code and telegraph technology, to early TV sets, to transistor radios, to cell phone prototypes. The museum and association are primarily run by unpaid volunteers, so their website is sparse. However, you can read a local newspaper account and see pictures of one of the museum’s space-traveling artifacts, a radio tube that was aboard the Telstar, the world’s first communication satellite.
Want to explore your own anachronistic city? Many towns maintain museums of local history, including early forms of communication technology. The Boulder History Museum in the city of Boulder, Colo., holds 1,700 such artifacts in its archives — from typewriters, to old cameras, to radios — all of which were used in that city’s history. The Park Forest Historical Society in Park Forest, Ill., maintains a 1950s house to commemorate the first fully planned, post-World-War II suburb. The house is decorated exactly as it would have been in 1948-1953, including furnishings and technology. As the Hyundai commercial points out, sometimes you have to see where you’ve been to fully appreciate what you have now and where things are headed.
To find a museum of local history near you, explore the thousands of listings at MuseumsUSA, which helps support small museums through its database of locally focused museums nationwide. Have fun exploring your town’s communications history!