Scooters (and Roller Skates)

As cities freak out over e-scooters today, it’s worth looking back at when these devices were actually new. Why did people love scooters in 1915, what’s different a century later, and what does all of this have to do with roller skates? The answers just might lead us to rethink how our cities are designed.

Scooters (and Roller Skates)

| Episode 21 |

Comic Books

In the 1950s, America declared war on the comic book. People feared that they’d turn children into hardened criminals, and so opponents burned them in large piles, states banned them, and the U.S. Senate investigated their dangers.

Comic Books

| Episode 20 |

The Elevator

It had a profound effect on the way we organize our cities and ourselves. It was also blamed for a rise in crime, for causing something called brain fever, for destroying civil society, and more. While the elevator may seem like old technology today, it has a big lesson for us about the future of transportation.

The Elevator

| Episode 19 |

KIDS THESE DAYS

| Episode 18 |

Kids these days

Kids! They’re lazy, narcissistic, and disrespectful—or so says the older generation. But when you look back through history, you’ll discover that older generations have been saying a version of the same thing for thousands of years. Our question is: Why? And we found an answer.

The Waltz

We may think of the waltz as classy and performative today, but as it gained popularity in the early 1800s, it was called disgusting, dangerous, an “obscene display … confined to prostitutes and adulteresses”, and worse. Why? In this episode, we explore how the waltz got people so riled up and what the whole sweaty tale can teach us about the future of scandalous dances.

The Waltz

| Episode 17 |

The Telegraph

It was humanity’s first taste of mass communications, and immediately triggered the same concerns about information overload, frivolous communications, loss of privacy, and moral corruption that today we blame on the internet. In this episode, we trace today’s concerns back to their origins.

The Telegraph

| Episode 16 |

Chain Stores

Chain stores were accused of destroying democracy and freedom, of corrupting young people, and of being evil, evil, evil. (Just wait: The word gets used a lot.) States even tried to ban them. In this episode of Pessimists Archive, we investigate why chain stores were so steeply resisted.

Chain Stores

| Episode 15 |

The Novel

They were accused of corrupting the youth, of planting dangerous ideas into the heads of housewives, and of distracting everyone from more serious, important books. In this episode, we explore the roots of anti-novel hysteria, and explore what impact it really did have on us.

The Novel

| Episode 14 |

The Subway

“It will release dangerous underground air!” “It will disturb the dead!” A religious leader in Boston even declared it a project of Lucifer himself. Why were people so opposed to this new form of transportation? To understand it, we have to rewind centuries – to a time when people thought that Earth was hollow, and that hell was directly under their feet.

The Subway

| Episode 13 |

Margarine

In this episode, we explore how the dairy industry got politicians all riled up, what it says about industries’ ability (and inability) to halt innovation, and why it took more than a century for butter and margarine to finally square off in the most fair fight of them all: a food fight.

Margarine

| Episode 12 |

Electricity

As electricity began to light our world, resistance came from curious corners. “God had decreed that darkness should follow light, and mortals had no right to turn night into day,” wrote one German newspaper. Why? To understand, we have go way back – to the very first spark.

Electricity

| Episode 11 |

Pinball

Pinball was banned from the 1940s to 1970s in many cities across America. New York City’s mayor made a show of bashing pinball machines with a hammer. Church ladies in suburban Chicago went on vigilante raids, ripping games out of stores. In this episode, we go through history to understand how a simple game became demonized.

Pinball

| Episode 10 |

Coffee

For 500 years, kings, sultans, and businessmen have tried to ban or destroy the world’s favorite caffeinated morning pick-me-up. Among their claims: Coffee makes you impotent! It destroys brain tissue! It attacks the nervous system! And most critically of all, it makes you want to take up arms against your government. In this episode, we find out how coffee survive centuries of bans to become today’s best part of waking up.

Coffee

| Episode 09 |

Vaccinations

Anti-vaxxers may seem like a product of our fake-news, health-hysteria modern times, but the fear that propels these skeptics is as old as the vaccine itself. How has modern medicine not shaken generations’ worth of suspicion and fear? We go back to look at two pivotal moments – the birth of the vaccine and a 1905 Supreme Court case – to understand what still motivates the anti-vaxxers of today.

Vaccinations

| Episode 08 |

Chess

For as long as chess has been around – and we’re talking 1,500-plus years – someone has tried to ban it. But why? The answer is complicated. But it begins by trying to understand why global leaders feel so threatened by games.

Chess

| Episode 07 |

The Bicycle

When the bicycle debuted in the 1800s, it was blamed for all sorts of problems—from turning people insane to devastating local economies to destroying women’s morals. We explore why the bicycle scared so many people, and what happens if the opposite of our fears turn out to be true.

The Bicycle

| Episode 06 |

Umbrella

In the 1750s, a London man took to the streets holding an umbrella—and braved jeers, rock-throwing haters, and even a cab that tried to run him over. We explore why rainy England was once so anti-umbrella, and whether that fight was really ever settled.

Umbrella

| Episode 05 |

Horseless Carriage

When the car began replacing the horse, *pessimists*  didn’t treat it like a great new tool. They called it “the devil wagon,” and said its mission was to destroy the world. We explore why the horseless carriage was so scary—and what it took to to finally put horse-lovers behind a wheel.

Horseless Carriage

| Episode 04 |

Recorded Music

In the early 1900s, recorded music was accused of muddling our minds, destroying art, and even harming babies. What was everyone so afraid of? In this episode, we dig into the early days of music and see what the hysterics properly predicted—and what they never saw coming.

Recorded Music

| Episode 03 |

The Good ol' Days

When exactly were the good ol’ days? In this new episode of the Pessimists Archive podcast, we go back in time to find out – exploring every moment that people claimed was a golden age, and trying to understand why, as Trump’s victory has shown, nostalgia is such a powerful force.

The Good Ol' Days

| Episode 02 |

The Walkman

Travel back to the 80s with us, where the portable cassette player was accused of turning people into “wind-up non-humans,” laws were passed to keep them off the streets, and one New Jersey man risked jail time for his right to walk with headphones.

The Walkman

| Episode 01 |

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