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How far back could you travel in time before the culture and technology was confusing?

I love watching reality shows where people live like people in previous periods; i.e. Regency House Party or Frontier House. If time travel were possible, how far back could a person go before the culture and technology would be completely unfamiliar? I say the 19 teens. My friend says things would begin to become alien as early as the 1920’s. Have fun!


  1. Yeah in the 20s. No air travel, steam on the rails, no pasteurized milk, hitching posts along the streets, people talking to each other in animated and interesting ways (no radio). Have fun!

  2. As to culture, a ‘modern’ would probably have trouble understanding
    the argot of the ’40’s.
    I know, I was there.
    As to technology, your friend was probably right about the ’20’s.
    You’d know the principles, but would have trouble with lack of
    tools that you’ve been accustomed to use.
    Just try carpentry without power tools if you don’t believe me.

  3. You would find the idioms of language weird as recently as the 1950’s and depending on where, exactly, you landed, customs of behavior and speech could be very odd and disorienting now although if you went to a major city you’d likely find it less confusing than a farm of the same period.
    In 1940, TV was so rare it might have not existed and radio was not what you are familiar with today. Cars were rare in the early 1900’s and paved roads existed only in or near cities, for the most part. People’s lives were often lived in their entirety less than five miles from where they were born– they’d know everybody but you’d be a total stranger with a funny accent, weird clothes and rude manners. How would you cope in the Warsaw ghetto in 1940, even if you spoke fluent Polish?

  4. I think that technology should be separated from culture for this question. There are probably hundreds of cultures that exist today that would be confusing (to a 21st century American at least) One wouldn’t need to travel back, more to the side I suppose. As far as technology is concerned, I doubt confusing would be a word you would use if confronted with what would assuredly be a slew of “low” technology items based on simple principles. Even as a teenager in middle school, you could travel back in time and possess what would amount to be a godlike amount of superior knowledge and pedigree. I would think that the more complex our technology gets the more confusing is to understand, of couse this is only my supposition. For example, if I was presented with and asked to explain both a 21st century missile system and 1st century AD Roman catapult, guess which one would be more confusing to explain to a layman.


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