As we pay tribute to the country’s longest ever serving Monarch, we thought it would be interesting to look back on the changes in communications we’ve seen over the second Elizabethan Age.
At the time of the Coronation in 1953, very few people in the United Kingdom even possessed a television. Radio and newspapers were still very much the most popular medium to receive information.
It is estimated that some 20 million people watched the event, on around 2.5 million black & white sets. Many went out and bought sets, just for this event. The result was the emergence of a demand for a new kind of mass media.
Throughout the 60s, TV ownership continued to rise and we even saw the advent of colour television by 1969.
Fast forward to the 70s, and despite the launch of Radio 1 and Radio 2 on the BBC, TV had become the dominant method of communication with whole families gathered around ‘the box’ to watch essentially the same programmes. Those were the days when over 20 million would gather to watch the likes of Morecambe & Wise or The Two Ronnies.
The advent of the VHS video recorder in the late 1970s heralded a major shift in media consumption. Not only could people record programmes to watch later, but they could purchase or hire movies to watch in their own homes.
Next innovation was the compact disc, introduced in the early 80s. This represented the first shift to digital and changed not only the music industry but also the computing industry (with the introduction of CD-Roms).
Through the 80s, we also moved into the age of mobile communications with the advent of the first mobile phones. At first huge, expensive and clunky, by the end of the decade, millions of us were carrying a Nokia or Eriksson in our pocket or handbag.
At the same time, personal computers took a big leap forward in the ‘90s when the launch of Windows 95 coincided with the introduction of the internet to the masses.
Meanwhile in music, digitisation continued apace with the introduction of streaming onto a device rather than buying something tangible. This utterly transformed not only how we listen to music but how we access TV and films.
The 2000s see two huge revolutions, with the first pretty much paving the way for the second. Apple launched their first iPhone in 2007. Although not a technological leap forward, the first time a company created a slick product which brought together telephony, messaging, music, photography and a world of applications (apps). Unsurprisingly, the nascent social media companies understood that for their new sites to get traction, they needed to be freely available on mobile devices.
Fast forward to today where Her Majesty’s death was reported on a plethora of different channels – from rolling TV news coverage to videos on YouTube and from newspaper reports to clips on Instagram Reels and TikTok.
As we enter the third Carolean Age, we see an utterly transformed media landscape. One which has been totally underpinned by the technologies introduced over the last 70 years. Gone are the days of mass media, replaced instead by masses of micro medias, all competing avidly for our attention. To paraphrase Marx, we’ve witnessed the democratisation of the means of communications.
It will be fascinating to see what further developments there are during the reign of King Charles III.