“Of course, we didn’t have cell phones in those days. You couldn’t just dial a number and get him or her, wherever he or she happened to be. So Motorola had just come out with a voice pager, which at the time seemed small enough. It was perhaps the size of a large cigar. A little on the heavy side. Today, we would consider it offensive to carry around because it was so big. But by the standards of the time, it was rather compact.”
The July Edition for Educators is dedicated to advances in technology and communication in the House of Representatives. Learn more about the how advances in technology have transformed the U.S. House of Representatives.
Electronic Technology in the House of Representatives
Beginning in 1844, electronic technologies fashioned an information transformation in Congress. Learn about five technologies that revolutionized the way information was disseminated from the halls of the House of Representatives to constituents in their districts.
Over time, the House has instituted new electronic technology to facilitate the legislative process while making it more accessible to the nation. Interviews with Members and staff include discussions about how technological advances like electronic voting, televised proceedings, computers, and smartphones have changed the institution.
Legislative signal bells in the House of Representatives
On July 24, 1888, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to add legislative signal bells to the House wing of the Capitol to keep Members informed of House Floor proceedings.
Congresswomen in Radio Debate
Mary Norton and Edith Nourse Rogers were just starting storied careers in the House when they met for a radio debate in early 1926. No strangers to politics both had been active in reform movements for years. During their exchange on radio station WRC, Norton spoke of the Democratic Party as “the champion of liberty, justice and equality.” Rogers, in turn, praised the Republican-controlled House and assured military veterans that the Congress would not “forget its debt to you.”
House Mainframe Computer Power Switch
In 2009, the House of Representatives upgraded its mainframe computer to a smaller, more energy efficient model. Pictured is the power switch to the earlier, outdated giant mainframe computer that had first been installed in 1996.
One Small Step . . . for Housekind
In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. As the nation marveled at this feat, the U.S. House of Representatives slowly prepared for its own launch: into the computer age. Months before the astronauts had touched down on the moon, Members of the House of Representatives descended on the Rayburn House Office Building to witness one of the three Capitol computers in action. More . . .
“No Other Word than Magic”
Clocks all over the House of Representatives—the plain ones, the fancy ones, even the ones that look like they belong in a high school classroom—have a little set of lights connected to them. Sometimes one is lit, sometimes all seven flash, and sometimes they are accompanied by loud buzzes (or rings, as they are officially termed) blasting a seemingly incomprehensible sequence. How did such a sound-and-light show end up in Congress? More . . .
This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.Follow @USHouseHistory