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Silent to Talkies: The Evolution of VADs

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Pamela Combs, PhD, RN
Seton Hospital
Austin, TX, USA

"We do not want now and we shall never want the human voice with our films." D.W. Griffiths [1]

In reading Mr. Griffiths' quote, this author made the decision to step back and assess the evolution of the film industry and, curiously, found some clear comparisons to the evolution of VADs. Until the late 1920's, motion pictures were silent except for the complement of music provided by live orchestras. Up to this point, movies had enjoyed a wide degree of popularity [2]. This changed in 1926, when Warner Brothers, in conjunction with Western Electric, introduced a new sound-on-disc system. While many in the audience were enamored with the thought of finally hearing the voices of their favorite actors, the true result was that many legendary actors' careers failed to survive [2].

This transition from silent to "talkies" involved the expansion of film technology that unfolded into three stages: Invention, Innovation, and Diffusion. "Invention" encompassed the period when the synch-sound apparatus was in its developmental stages until Warner Brothers, a film company, purchased rights to the Vitaphone, a device to produce sound and apply it to film. The "Innovation" phase is described as the time when the film studios experimented with the various methods of applying sound to produce the best device. "Diffusion" describes the dissemination of "talkies" to not only a national, but international, audience with the addition of wiring theatres for sound [2]. Despite the challenge, the film industry not only survived this transition, but flourished in creating beautiful and legendary films to for future generations.

Though a different industry, one can find clear similarities between the evolution of the film industry and VADs. The maturation of the VAD world has, at times, been difficult, but with the inventions, such as smaller devices, innovations, like utilizing the centrifugal method, and demonstration of diffusion by presenting at international conferences, such as ISHLT, progression exists. Many naysayers, like Mr. Griffiths, exist within a world of discovery and change. It is those with the belief, hard work ethic, and innovation that bring forward technology that changes the world. ■

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.


  1. Brown, K. (1973), Adventures with D. W. Griffith. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  2. Crafton, D. (1999). The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931. California: University of California Press.

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