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Watch these kids visit London’s Science Museum – in 1959

In 1959, exciting technology of the future included tape recorders and self-opening doors, at least according to archival footage shared this week by the BBC.

The black-and-white video (below) shows the corporation’s then science correspondent C.L. Boltz exploring the Science Museum in London, U.K., more than 60 years ago.

1959: Children visit the SCIENCE MUSEUM | BBC News | Retro Tech | BBC Archive

“Gallery after gallery contains apparatus and machines of incalculable value because so many are originals and exist only here,” a besuited Boltz tells viewers in a clipped British accent.

The science correspondent then asks a Mr. Wilson, described as “the man in charge,” which gadget visiting children get most excited about.

Wilson is quick to point out the nearby tape recorder, a large, clunky contraption featuring a microphone larger than the face of some of the kids who speak into it.

The BBC’s footage shows a young boy approaching the then cutting-edge recording equipment and calling out, “Hello, my darling.” He then waits. And waits a bit longer. Finally, the machine’s speaker bellows back a recording of what he just said and … er … that’s it.

Next we see a long line of children waiting patiently to use the aforementioned self-opening door, something that today we might call an “automatic door,” or simply a “door.”

To be clear, the Science Museum’s special door does not act as an entrance to another exhibition room or even as an exit to the streets of London. Sadly, nor is it a portal into the 21st century where visitors would’ve been able to look with utter bewilderment at everything from circular smartphones and air-purifier headphones to heart-rate-monitoring light bulbs and robotic nibbler Amagami Ham Ham. Instead, the self-opening door merely acts as a demonstration of what was then a new and exciting technology.

The BBC’s video also features other Science Museum attractions at the time, among them ship propulsion technology, a 1905 Rolls-Royce, the first jet-propelled motor car, and an atomic physics exhibit.

The footage ends with Boltz staring at a crude model of a camel working a water wheel, a sight that may leave you wishing you could somehow reach into the video to tell the science correspondent that technology will definitely get more impressive in the decades to come.

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Trevor Mogg
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