When you think of the traditional family home, you think of the television. The big square box acted as the centrepiece of the living room and was one of the building blocks associated with family entertainment. As technology has evolved, so too has the way families and society as a whole perceive the television. Therefore, it seemed fitting that the way I delve into this subject would be to talk to members of my own family. This allowed me to obtain personal, anecdotal memories and experiences of how each generation used the television.
The first family member I spoke to was my Grandmother, Brenda. Brenda was born in 1945 and was the youngest of 10 siblings. Immediately the differences between generations are evident. There was no television in her London home until she was ten years old. “I remember seeing that odd black box and being blown away.” But even after the introduction of the television to her home, outdoor play was the primary source of childhood entertainment. Sharing one television between a family of twelve provides an interesting contrast to television viewing habits today. Nowadays there is often as many televisions as there are people. My household consists of 3 family members and 4 televisions.
Next I spoke to my Mother, Tracey. Born in 1965, Tracey’s television memories were vastly different to Brenda’s and my own. In most homes, televisions were still in black and white, and there was still only one per household. “When I was 8 I went to a friend’s house for a playdate. That was the first time I watched a colour TV. 5 years later my Dad brought one home, but watching it was always considered a treat. I would watch Here’s Humphrey in the afternoon, and then hurry to bed when I heard my Dad pull up in the driveway.”
Quite frankly, Here’s Humphrey looks like the kind of show that would give me nightmares. When I compare the experiences of older generations to my own, the changes are abundantly clear. My unhealthy obsession with The Simpsons for example was not something I had to get permission to watch.
Whether black and white or colour, big and bulky or sleek and high definition, the purpose of the television is one every generation can understand. In the word’s of Homer Simpson, “Come, family, let us all bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow.”
But the space and relationships surrounding the television are what have truly changed. The television was once a special treat to be shared by the whole family in moderation. Nowadays, however, the television is an old acquainted member of every family, taking the backseat to the wondrous new technologies of the future.