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1848- 2023 Celebrating 175 Years in Ortonville

By Joseph Loudon

One might think not much has changed from 175 years ago, but many things have changed.  As I strolled through the Old Mill in downtown Ortonville, I found many things that caught my eye. Radios, televisions, newspapers, and letters were a few of the many interesting ways to communicate back then and now.

Heinrich Hertz invented the first radio in 1888 although it was not used for the purpose you may be thinking of. The radio’s main purpose back then was to communicate with ships using Morse code. It was not until the 1920s that the radio’s main purpose shifted to news and entertainment. In today’s day and age, we still use the radio as a way to listen to news and music, but so much more is available using your cell phone. A popular way of gaining knowledge and news today is by listening to podcasts on your phone. Cell phones have made it much easier to listen to your choice of music, through apps such as Spotify and Apple Music. People can also purchase cell phone accessories such as earbuds, which allow an immersive audio experience as one places the tiny speaker in his ear canal free from any wires using wireless technology.


By 1955, television had replaced the radio in half of American homes. While the radio relied solely on audio, tv combined both audio and visual elements. Television broadcasted some major historical events to

Americans, like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the terrorist attack on the twin towers. Television has had a remarkable transformation from the past to the present. At first, there were only a handful of channels showing programming at set times. With streaming technology now available, viewers  do not have to wait to watch their shows. Additionally, channels have developed and expanded that are tailored to viewers’ interests, for example. Animal Kingdom and HGTV (Home and Garden.)

175 years ago, the newspaper served as a major source of communication. The newspaper told what was going on in the world, and it would talk about other local events like ordinary people just going shopping or families visiting other families. We may not use the newspaper much today, but we have other media platforms, such as Facebook, where people share similar social information as in the past.

Decades before instant messaging letters held an importance in communication. People would take time and pour their hearts into their letters. Letters carried the weight of distance, bridging gaps between loved ones.  Truly letters were the way to communicate with a friend, family member, or loved one. In contrast, emails remain the digital letter system individuals rely on today.

Radios, television, newspapers, and letters served as communication tools both then and now. Scores of technological advancements have created many more efficient ways for people to communicate today. The old ways feel archaic but possess sentimental ties of a gone-by era where time stood still and one relished in family, friendships and fellowship.

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