Tag Archives: communications

Wonderful Things: Leica M2 camera

In a rather unassuming cabinet on the ground floor, sits a humble piece of equipment that changed the way we see the world.

In 1972 the Leica M2 35mm camera was used by photojournalist Nick Ut to shoot his momentous, Pulitzer prize-winning picture of the disrobed nine year old girl Kim Phuc running toward the camera, away from a South Vietnamese napalm attack . This iconic image has become synonymous with the war in Vietnam.

Children running from napalm attack, Vietnam 1972

Children running from napalm attack, Vietnam 1972

The manufacturer of this camera, Leitz, originally produced microscopes and scientific optics. The M2 was a more affordable camera than its predecessor, the Leica M3, and had provisions for a wider angled lens, making it possible for photographers like Nick Ut to record defining moments in history.


The Leica M2 camera changed the way we see the world

The Leica M2 camera changed the way we see the world


This little piece of technology tells a huge story:  it allowed people to witness the barbarous nature of human conflict. The Vietnam War was in fact the first war to be televised and documented in real time.

Science and technology were at the helm of society at the time of the Vietnam War (mid-fifties to mid-seventies), with advents like the silicon chip, the microprocessor, the artificial heart and of course, the space race. In one fell swoop this object demonstrates two faces of science and technology. The negative side is the use of napalm, a chemical designed to cause maximum destruction and fear. The positive, of course, is the camera itself, developed by humankind to better understand the world around itself.

Bonus: the same kind of camera also captured one of the most reproduced images in history. .. that famous photo of the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, so often seen on t shirts, bags and walls for the past 50 years!

Today it is easy for any of us to report on the world around us. With mobile phone cameras and social networks at our fingertips, we can quickly capture an instant in time and communicate it to the rest of the world. But is anyone listening?

  • Have you ever taken a photo that changed people’s minds?

The Leica M2 camera is in the Making the Modern World gallery, on the ground floor.

-James Carmody

Wonderful Things – the great and mighty Telegraph

How do you say hello to your friends living 100km away from you? You may send an e-mail or a message with your mobile phone and your friends can get your message as soon as you send it.

But how about 100 years ago? Was it possible to send your words like an email as today? The answer is YES, they used the telegraph at that time.

The first commercial electric telegraph was developed by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, and was first used on the Great Western Railway in Britain. It ran for 13 miles, from Paddington station to West Drayton and came into operation on 9th July 1839.

Advert by Great Western Railway telegraph services, 1845. Image SSPL

Advert by Great Western Railway telegraph services, 1845. Image SSPL

In fact, the telegraph was patented in the UK in 1837, and first successfully demonstrated by Cooke and Wheatstone later that year between Euston and Camden town in London.

 The concept of the telegraph was based on Oersted’s recent discovery that an electric current flowing in a conductor could move a nearby compass needle. With the addition of a suitable coding system, it found an ideal market in the developing railway network. Interestingly, because the diamond grid on it only had space for 20 letters of the alphabet, the 6 missing ones had to be left out of messages!

Cooke & Wheatstone five-needle telegraph, 1837

Cooke & Wheatstone five-needle telegraph, 1837. Image SSPL

After World War II new technology became available that radically improved the telegraph, such as the coaxial cable and microwave links. The advent of the digital computer in 1960s brought an end to much analogue communication, but it didn’t change the fact that the telegraph was actually was the first practical use of electricity for long-distance communication, and radically changed the world.

How is the telegraph like an iphone?

Telegraph vs playstation: which one changed more lives?

If you were to throw a birthday party for the telegraph, which other inventions would you invite? Who would NOT be invited?

 Come and see the iconic telegraph in the Making the Modern World gallery on the ground floor.

  Raynold, Masato & Maki – Tokyo Institute of Technology