Monday, October 29, 2012

A Brief History of the Teleprompter

How a makeshift show business memory aid became the centerpiece of modern political campaigning. 

As President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney enter the home stretch of their campaigns, they've now been touring the country and delivering the same stump speech three times per day for the past ten months straight. Both of the candidates read their words while looking out at the crowds, instead of down at a piece of paper, conveying the idea that they’ve memorized their speeches and are connecting with their audiences. And while conservatives take great pleasure in mocking President Obama’s reliance on a machine to help him deliver his speeches, the truth is that both candidates—along with politicians for more than a generation—read off of thin, nearly invisible plates of glass angled at a 45-degree slant at either side of their podiums. Perhaps more than any other technological advance—more than the touch-screen voting booth, the automated campaign phone call or even the slick TV attack ad—the teleprompter continues to define our political age.

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