In the days before micro-blogging, text messages and social networking sites, the public were using the humble postcard to impart their thoughts and opinions.
Introduced in 1902, the picture postcard, containing an image on one side and room for writing on the other, became an instant hit according to a study by Lancaster and Manchester Metropolitan universities.
Using Postmaster General reports, researchers calculated almost six billion postcards – an average of 200 per person – were posted in Britain between 1901 and 1910.
With up to 10 postal deliveries in major cities a day at this time, the medium allowed users to write and respond quickly and cheaply, the study found.
Like Twitter, which restricts users to 140 characters per ”tweet”, postcard writers only have a limited amount of space to pen a message.
The study concludes: ”We suggest that the low price and efficiency of the Edwardian postcard has meant that as an informal written communications technology it was not equalled subsequently until the 21st century.”
As with the informal style of social networking, or ”text-speak”, which lacks punctuation and shortens words, leaders of the 1900s were concerned that the use of postcards threatened literacy standards, researchers found.
A postcard sent to a Mrs Rowarth of The Lamb Inn begins: ”A P.C. from you this mg. is it tomorrow or next Sat. the opening. if tomorrow it is decidedly off with me. & I am afraid it would be the same next week.”
The study said: ”The spontaneous outbursts of informal written communications were not necessarily welcomed as a good thing, but rather felt to threaten ‘standards’.”
Julia Gillen and Nigel Hall, the authors of the report, will present their findings at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference in Manchester today. (Via Telegraph)