Today, the radio is a piece of history. But back when I was little, the transistor was our only conduit to the outside world.
With its invention in the 1890s, followed by that of the television in 1927, began the First Information Revolution of the 20th century. Throughout the 1930s, starting with the Great Depression until the approach of World War II, the nation’s popular pastime was listening to the radio.
Soon, it began to overtake print media as a superior form of mass communication. But with time, the radio found its nemesis in the television. By the early 1950s, the cathode ray-tube had clearly steered ahead of the transistors in its novelty, and had captured the public mind.
Both these technological leaps helped to reinforce centralization, in the sense that only a select group of people, with access to the new technology had the power to produce information. The rest of society merely consumed it passively. The media were controlled by the people who owned it.
The Second Information Revolution came with the commercial launch of the Internet in the early 1990s. It was a game changer, reversing the direction of the information flow. Where in the previous eras, it flowed from the top to the bottom; later, it flowed from the bottom to the top.