Entertainment has always been at the core of civilisation, from the theatres of ancient Greece and Rome to the songs of the early medieval period, the music of the medieval and the resurgence of a life of leisure in the Renaissance and beyond, we humans seek entertainment. It is a vital part of our leisure time, personal growth and our need to wind down from our working lives. Here is a list of some of the most fascinating firsts from the world of entertainment.
1. 1860: Unknown Woman
Humans have enjoyed music for thousands of years; in 2013 it is believed that archaeologists found the first musical instrument, made from bird bone, dating to around 45,000 years old. Yet there never existed until the mid-19th century the tools for recording one of the oldest forms of entertainment. In 1860, a woman whose name is lost to history recorded the first music recording. She sang Claire De La Lune and though the quality is not great, it represents a landmark in entertainment.
2. 1919: PCGG
Though radio waves had been around for a long time, and the technology to carry audio had existed for at least ten years, and that radio broadcasting had existed for a couple years’¦ this year in The Hague in the Netherlands saw the advent of the first commercial radio broadcasting station. This commercial radio station lasted for five years and ceased broadcast when the owner went bankrupt. It was recently officially recognised as the world’s oldest radio station.
3. 1929: Los Angeles
Today, the Academy Awards is the highlight of filmmakers calendar. Taking place every year in February or March, it is as much part of speculation for outfits as it is for which films are going to win the Oscar(s). In 1929, the First Academy Awards took place and most interestingly, it is the only one not to have been broadcast on TV or radio. Though modern ceremonies last some four hours, this one had fewer than ten awards and lasted fifteen minutes. Not quite the showpiece that it has become today, clearly!
4. 1954: Tournament of Roses Parade
Television broadcasting had been around for about 10 or 15 years and most broadcasts were transmitted and received in black and white. Though it would take a few years for colour to both catch on and be affordable (prohibitively expensive until way into the 1960s), in 1954 this parade is the first known television show broadcast in colour. The parade is held in Pasadena, California every year and is part of America’s New Year celebrations. It first took place in 1890 and is still happening today.
5. 1965: Kenneth Tynan
There are some words you do not say in polite society, and you have to take extra special care not to say them to a large number of people at once. Though generally accepted today in certain contexts, the BBC was shocked in 1965 when Kenneth Tynan first uttered the ‘f-bomb’ on live television. Alas, to some the first predates Tynan by nine years when Irish playwright Brendan Behan uttered it on Panorama. However, he was so drunk that most people did not understand what he had said. Tynan’s was clear.
6. 1972: Magnavox
Today, video games and consoles are a lucrative market for manufacturers and an essential part of most households’ entertainment. It’s remarkable to think that the home console has only been around for the best part of 40 years. The first ever console, and released in this year, was the Magnavox Odyssey. A grand total of 27 games were eventually released including genres still familiar to us today: action, sport, puzzle, light gun shooters, educational and game show. Atari would find itself in dispute when it was accused of plagiarising the Odyssey’s Tennis game.
7. 1982: Billy Joel
How do you prefer to listen to music? Some still swear by vinyl, the cassette is dead, as was its short-lived successor digital cassette. It would seem that the CD is surviving despite the prevalence of the mp3 format ‘ some it seems still prefer a physical product. The first album ever released on CD was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street which was marketed by Sony along with its new CD player. However, the CD had had a public demonstration on BBC’s technology programme Tomorrow’s World with a sample play of a Bee Gees album.
8. 1991: CERN
CERN are known for their advanced research into physics and the Large Hadron Collider that sites in the ground beneath it- most people know the name as the organisation searching for ‘The God Particle’, research into anti-matter and other high-brow experiments. Yet they also set a surprising first in the cyberworld: CERN was the originator of the very first website, practically inventing the internet. After the opening of the site, they proclaimed that the web would be free to anyone. The site explained what the internet was and encouraged people to participate.
9. 1995: Toy Story
For many, great effects drive great moviemaking. From the first special effects a hundred years before and tentative use of wireframe computer generated images, Toy Story by Pixar (then a division of Disney) proudly released the first ever fully CGI movie. The film was a roaring success and is usually the first film people think of when you mention the company. It featured Woody the Cowboy, Buzz the spaceman and an eclectic mix of other toys. Two sequels followed, handling stories of growing up.
10. 2004: Sony Librie
It seems that even the most avid reader has given in and purchased an ebook reader of some kind: today’s major players are Kindle, Kobo and the Nook. Though the digital book file has been around since the late 1990s (and could only be read on a computer), it would be 2004 before the first dedicated ebook reader was released when Sony developed E ink. The Sony Librie was the first of its kind and the company still manufactures readers today.
Nobody can say when entertainment began but the bone flute mentioned at the top is probably a good contender. Some believe that entertainment drives civilisation ‘ you can measure the success of a society by its culture and heritage. Whether you prefer to read, watch films, go to a play or spend time on a console, enjoy it and relax in the feeling that entertainment is as old as human civilisation.