Today Cory Doctorow tweeted out a fascinating image showing an RCA computer room in 1959. I can’t stop staring at it.
There’s a peculiar artifice to the clearly-staged promotional photo that’s so striking—not only for its incredibly rich colors, but for the expressions on the computer operators’ faces. Especially the woman pushing a button with the mindless boredom you’d expect of George Jetson. Or perhaps a robot.
After a bit of digging I discovered the photo comes from a 1959 RCA Annual Report. Flickr user James Prochnick has some scans from the report and they’re absolutely captivating. Again, part of my captivation with the image is the deep saturation of the colors. But also the clearly meticulous nature with which everything is framed.
I guess you’d expect nothing less of an electronics company dealing with high-tech computers in the late 1950s. I can’t help but wonder what that woman must be thinking. She reminds me of Jane Jetson and her “buttonitis” affliction.
The cover to the annual report appears below.