Time travel – for the hard of hearing?

In the last few days, an awful lot of web space has been devoted to the lady ‘time traveller’ filmed in 1928, who appears to be chatting away on a mobile. 

Of course back then, the film crew were focusing on a Charlie Chaplin premiere, rather than splits in the space-time continuum. But through the eyes of those living in 2010, where mobile phones are omnipresent, the first reaction of many is to reach a fantastical conclusion.

Alternative readings of this silent clip have quickly appeared. The most popular being that she’s using a hearing device – possibly a Siemens carbon amplifier.  The hand position looks right… but who’s she talking to?

Ardente hearing aid

Ardente carbon hearing aid (Science Museum)

Keeping with carbon hearing aid theme, could she be wearing a device like the one above – one of several designs in our collections. Many include palm-sized microphone units, often attached to a cord around the wearer’s neck.  She could be adjusting the volume by talking into it.

Compact ear trumpet

Compact ear trumpet (Science Museum)

Or maybe it’s something more old-fashioned like this small, flat ear trumpet. It is British, but typical of compact ‘mobile-sized’ models in very common use just a few years earlier. The ear-piece turns in at 90 degrees to the body with the device held alongside the cheek. 

Unless identified as a long-gone great aunt, we’re unlikely to find out precisely what she was doing. 

She’s definitely talking though. Did the cameras make her nervous? Or is she manoeuvering around for a better signal – oblivious to the total lack of service providers and phone masts?

Maybe she was just talking to herself. A lot of people do. But with all respect to the lady in question, when it comes to time travellers I kind of hope they’ll look as out of place and time – and as cool – as the mystery guy in shades who turned up on a Canadian Museum site a few years back.

Now, where did he come from?

3 thoughts on “Time travel – for the hard of hearing?

  1. Stewart

    Given that they seem such archaic pieces of technology, and the source of some visual humour, I think there is just a common perception that ear trumpets were invariably ‘trumpet sized’. As the example above shows – as do those in the links Mia provided – there was a whole range of ear trumpets that were essentially palm-sized and relatively discreet.

    Reply

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