National Geographics and audio books

For many decades my paternal grandparents would subscribe to the National Geographic magazine. Given that they were tucked away in a small town, Meerut, it was remarkable. The magazine would arrive regularly. In fact when my brother and I visited them for our summer break we would pore over the wonderful collection they had amassed. Once my grandmother started her school many of these magazines were sent off to the library.

Last year my 101-year-old grandfather passed away. Now my father and his siblings are slowly sifting through the papers my grandfather had collected. From it has emerged a treasure of National Geographic magazines. Some are dating as far back to 1933. On the right is an image from an article published in 1933 about the advancement at Hamburg port where now steam ships instead of sail ships were visible. There are random issues from the “in-between” decades till recently. There is an article about  Afghanistan in 1968. My father has gifted this collection to my seven-year-old daughter who is thrilled. She is ecstatic since she loves the magazine and already has her own subscription to it.

While flipping through the magazines I came across a description of what could be the earliest form of an audio book. It is an article reviewing a book about birds. Apparently to accompany it were a set of LPs ( long playing records). Depending upon the bird you were reading about and wished to hear the sound it made then you placed the book on the LP on the record turntable, placed the needle at the hole on the page and voila! the birds chirruped. Absolutely fascinating description of an “audio book” from the 1960s.  Imagine even then people were trying to experiment with books and technology!

3 July 2017

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