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Can You Hear Me Now?

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In the opening minutes of the Adventures of Superman TV series episode entitled “Beware the Wrecker” (Season 2 Episode 20), which first aired on 30 January 1954, Clark Kent apologizes for being unable to trace a telephone call from the Wrecker, opining that the villain might be using a “portable telephone.”

Ummm, hit the rewind there. Say what?! Yep, I heard that correctly: “Whoever it is who is making these calls must be using a portable telephone,” says Clark. Not only that, but neither the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Inspector Henderson nor the heads of the city’s three transportation systems (in the IMDB page’s snapshot of the episode, depicted moments before Mr. Kent’s statement) think to ask what he means. And just as obviously, the show must have expected the TV audience to know what was meant. That, and apparently everyone understood without second-guessing that of course Clark Kent was right, about calls from such a device being immune to a trace.

So in this super age we live in, I can ask Siri on my own smart phone to dig up some background. Which among other pages of history yields Mobile Phone (1954). Which suggests that although the “first commercially viable version” of the first portable phone wasn’t available until 1983 (begging the question of whether even that clunky relic was truly commercially viable), the invention of that phone did in fact date back to 1954.

But for Clark Kent to have known that when he did, he must have been engaging in a bit of industrial espionage. And then spread the word to his friends and TV audience. All of them chatting it up on their portable telephones, maybe.

Seriously, though. A portable phone in January 1954?? Oh well, it was on TV, so it must have mattered, right?

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Written by macheide

10 January 2015 at 12:03 am

Posted in television

Tagged with ,

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