Necessity is apparently the mother of invention. This might make films and science fiction the father. This struck me most evidently the other day when watching the 1913 movie Traffic In Souls. Despite the IMDB calling it primitive, there are plenty of technological as well as narrative advances made in this film, one of the film multi-reeler motion pictures. The bad guy uses a telephonic stenography device, which shows off some magical yet simplistic animation effect – this is for show off value. But the film posits the questions, how do you catch someone for doing criminal acts down the new fangled telephone, when magnetic tape and phone taps have not been invented?

The answer in Traffic In Souls is the handy father of the poor girl who has been abducted into the white slave trade just happening to be an inventor. And him just happening to work on a phonogram which will be able to record telephone conversations. This bulky wax cylinder device is hidden in a waste bin and we are probably lucky that this is a silent movie as it probably makes a lot noise in operation. Still twiddling moustache baddie does not notice and gets sent down, bang to rights. It struck me though that for certain film plots, the spy or cop drama, the wire tap is night on vital. And Traffic In Souls knew that.