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Deutsches Technikmuseum - November

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


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Exhibit of the Month November 2018

Photo: On display is an olive green, funnel-shaped hand megaphone with its own handle on the bottom end and a cord for hanging.

A megaphone allows one’s voice to be heard in order to either express an opinion or maintain order. © SDTB / photo: C. Kirchner

Megaphone, 1960s

To make your voice heard is not always easy.

The megaphone, which has also been called a speaking trumpet or a bullhorn, is used to amplify a person’s voice. This portable and often battery operated device works by combining a microphone, an amplifier and a loud speaker.
The first portable voice amplifier was developed by the Englishman Samuel Morland in 1670 under the name speaking trumpet. This cone-shaped metal funnel mainly served on ships and in the military as a way to give instructions.  Since those times, megaphones have been much improved and are used for a variety of purposes.

Versatile working tool

At the beginning of the 20th century, movie directors and lifeguards discovered them as great tools for their work. The voice amplifier is also indispensable for law enforcement officers and emergency personnel. Megaphones have long been standard equipment for fire departments and the police, as was at one time the device shown here.

In addition, megaphones developed into an instrument for expressing political opinions: Women who fought for the right to vote one hundred years ago used them just as did the students that fifty years ago made themselves heard on the streets of West Berlin and other major cities using the improved electric megaphone.

Copperplate print from 1685 that pictures a speaking trumpet.  This forerunner of the megaphone was a funnel-shaped metal tube that looked like a wind instrument.

Graphic print from 1685. This voice amplifier is called a speaking trumpet and looks very much like a wind instrument. © Deutsche Fotothek

The right to speak one’s mind and to contribute to the formation of public opinion is an important societal good. Respect and propriety are the basic underlying principles. Not everybody holds to them. They thereby call the values and rules of social cohesion into question.

How shall we deal with this challenge?