What is it about old radio broadcasts that makes them so distinctive?
September 6, 2014 11:53 AM   Subscribe

What is it about the audio in old radio or TV broadcasts that makes them identifiable as "old"?

When you hear a radio broadcast or TV broadcast from a bygone era, you can immediately tell it's not modern (I feel like this is particularly noticeable for the 1960s and earlier, but maybe others can identify more recent decades as well.) Often you can even get a sense of the era, 40s vs 50s vs 60s. But what is it, exactly, about the audio that makes this possible? Is it the recording technology, the sound reproduction technology, the degradation of the recording medium since the sound was originally recorded? Has the speaking style of the typical American changed noticeably over the last several decades? All of the above?
posted by fermion to Technology (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, you're hearing the sound of the recording technology...microphones, amplifiers, tubes, transistors, etc. And, whether the recordings were made direct to acetate (as was done in the decades before tape) or recorded to tape. If you ever listen to a relatively clean transcription of a 40s-era radio program, it's actually pretty impressive just how good the audio is.

Yes, speaking styles have changed quite a bit. On-air talent tended to speak much more formally. As radio transitioned from a staged entertainment medium to the DJ format we are more familiar with, the on-air talent became much more casual.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:11 PM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This earlier thread touches upon this topic: Have Americans evolved their speaking style/accent significantly in the past 50 years?
posted by effbot at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2014

A lot of them were performed live before studio audiences.
posted by vapidave at 2:08 PM on September 6, 2014

A key thing for me is radio talent used to be considered 'Announcers' and they did not so much speak or read copy as ANNOUNCE. Speech on the radio today is much more conversational, even the news.
posted by readery at 11:12 PM on September 6, 2014

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