Communications 1950s - 1960s
The Australian postal service
In the 1950s, Australia's postal needs were serviced by the PMG (Post Master General). The PMG was responsible for telegraph and home telephone operations, as well as postal services.
In 1954, the PMG began offering the Teleprinter Exchange, or Telex, to the public. The telex was an electric typewriter that delivered typed messages along telegraph lines. This new technology was a great convenience, especially to businesses which no longer had to rely on the slower, more expensive telegram system.
Subscriber trunk dialling (STD) was introduced in the mid-1960s, allowing people to directly dial long-distance areas. This replaced the previous system whereby the phone user would dial the operator, who would then place the call.
Television 1950s - 1960s
In 1956, television brought the moving picture into people's homes. The uptake of television was enthusiastic and by the end of the decade it was estimated that over two-thirds of families in Sydney and Melbourne owned a television set. Over the next five years, television had spread to most other States.
Television transmitted ideas into Australia faster than ever before. Australia's awareness and experience of the rest of the world changed rapidly. Television exposed people to other cultures and world views and provided information that would play a major role in shaping popular public opinion.
By the mid-1960s, television had truly taken hold as the most popular form of communication. Television was available in all but the most remote areas of Australia and it was estimated that by 1965, nine in ten Australian families owned a television set.
Satellites and telecommunications - 1960s
In the 1960s, global communication was revolutionised by satellite technology. Satellites were a bridge to exchanging information with the rest of the world and instigated major changes in television viewing and telephone communication. For a nation as geographically isolated as Australia, the opportunities presented by this technology were especially profound.
Tracking stations in Australia had been receiving Russian satellite signals since the late 1950s and received signals from the first US satellite in 1962. The first satellite weather images were beamed to Australia in 1964.
In 1966, the INTELSAT II satellite was launched. It enabled Australia to transmit and receive telephone calls and television signals, creating the first satellite exchange between Australia and the rest of the world. By 1968, Australia's entire telecommunications system was hooked up to this satellite system.
The potential of television and satellite technology was fully realised on 20 July 1969, when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. This landmark event was broadcast live into Australian homes. Rather than hearing or reading about the moon landing afterwards, Australia was able to experience and celebrate the event as part of the global community.
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Television and the Vietnam War
War broke out between communist North Vietnam and democratic South Vietnam following the end of French occupation in 1959. The United States and its allies, including Australia, feared the spread of communism and wanted to ensure a South Vietnamese victory. Along with America, Australia dispatched thousands of military personnel to Vietnam. In total, around 50,000 Australians served in the conflict between 1965 and 1972.
For the first time in history, the technology of television brought images of the war directly into people's homes. As television news showed controversial, sometimes horrifying events of the conflict night after night, public support for Australia's involvement in the war rapidly diminished. This effect was paralleled in America.
As a result, many people credit television with helping create the political pressure that led to the withdrawal of allied troops from the conflict.
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Radio 1950s - 1960s
The advent of the portable transistor in the late 1950s rescued the radio industry from the impending doom of television. Although its sound quality was 'tinny' and a lower quality than that of traditional radios, the transistor allowed radio to escape the limits of the home. Unlike television, radio could be installed in cars and be carried to outdoor locations like parks and beaches.
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Advertising and communications 1950s - 1960s
From the 1950s, advancing forms of communication provided new avenues for advertising to deliver its message to Australian society. Advertising and other forms of popular culture helped create an unprecedented demand for material goods. Through television, radio and magazines, advertisers depicted an exciting new American-inspired lifestyle that could be obtained by purchasing new cars and home appliances and the latest fashion, music, films, food and beverages.
Australia, like many other Western countries, fast developed a 'consumer culture'- whereby happiness and satisfaction were often associated with purchasing and consuming material goods. The consumerist trend would accelerate in later decades.