Telecommunication has seen extremely significant advancement over the past several centuries. After ages of knowledge being almost exclusively conveyed in writing, the invention of the telegraph in 1840 set off a new era of rapid invention. With this new era came the ability to spread information much more easily over long distances in short times. As the desire for newer technologies increased, those technologies were swiftly supplied as inventions such as the telephone in 1876 and the radio in 1887 grew quickly into market items. Since then, those inventions have been drastically improved, and new technologies such as satellite relays and the internet have made telecommunication more efficient and extensive than ever before. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury depicts a future of indulgence in which certain implementations of telecommunication are cornerstone. Some of the predictions he made are not far from technologies we have today, and those advancements expected in our near future may bring us even closer to realizing the future that Bradbury has predicted.
In the novel, one of the key ideas is that all books have been banned under harsh penalty of law; it is under these conditions that the depicted telecommunication technologies should be considered. Bradbury predicts that in the future, television-like screens will take up entire walls, and even multiple walls. These “parlor screens” immerse the viewer in a cacophony of noise and imagery. There are also telephones used that call the name of the person at the other end. Mildred constantly has her “Seashell” in her ear; these devices receive audio signals from stations in the form of music, “news,” and endless talk (Bradbury 18). Near the end of the novel, Faber and Montag communicate using seashell-like “green bullets” implanted into the ear (Bradbury 90-1).
Modern technological developments certainly exhibit similarities to the predictions made by Bradbury in the mid-20th century. Although versions of some technologies – such as the television, radio, and telephone – already existed at the time of Bradbury’s writing the novel in 1953, the projections of these in the novel had slight differences and were much more advanced. The “parlor walls” mentioned in the novel are very much like the large, flat-screen televisions developed today; the largest television we have in the present is a whopping 150-inches measured diagonally (Paul). The “parlors” also exhibit features of modern surround-sound systems, which range greatly in sophistication. The telephones used in the novel are very similar to those used today; new technology that relays telephone calls over the internet (“VoIP”) allows for much greater quality and an extended array of specialized features (“Voice”). The “Seashells” are much like the portable radio devices of the present, and the “green bullets” are similar to modern-day cell phones and wireless headsets and earpieces. Overall, Bradbury’s predictions about telecommunication have been largely fulfilled, at least to an extent.
Telecommunications predictions for the near future extend beyond the limits of Bradbury’s. It is widely speculated that there will be a new “age” among telecommunication technologies, but it is unsure as of yet which of these technologies will prevail. In one scenario, it is predicted that the internet will experience rapid growth in popularity and development and surpass the telephone by 2012 (Engstrom). This seems likely given the recent expansion and ever-growing importance of the internet in the daily lives of the average modern person. Another predicted trend is an increase in digital video technologies, such as a reemergence of the several-times-tried video phone. This is especially viable now due to strides in data compression and the already widespread use of broadband “Voice over IP” technology. Mobile technology is also likely to be a focus in the years to come, probably focusing on more mobile and universal internet access and even video cell phones.
From Ray Bradbury’s predictions in the novel Fahrenheit 451, the implications of highly advanced and widely available telecommunications technologies can be dangerous if not kept in check. However, it is also true that with advancement in telecommunication comes even greater potential for ideas to be expressed freely, quickly, and easily. The modern era of the internet shows a focus on the desire for any information to be readily accessible at any time, from any place. Bradbury’s views of indulgence in such technologies showed that they had both positive and negative potentials, but if the technologies available in the near future are treated as tools for furthering knowledge, they will provide vast benefits to mankind.
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