Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Electric dreams - missing technology

A fascinating show from the BBC, Electric Dreams is an experiment to see how one family adjusts to life in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. Their house was stripped of modern technology, completely reorganised in period fashion, and decorated and equipped with only items available in 1970. The family dressed in 70s clothes, and they they lived a decade a day, with new gadgets (like a freezer and a colour TV) arriving as they became generally available.

Life was very different then - and at times the family complained of being bored, and having "nothing to do" (except for the mother, who was very busy indeed with housework). They spent a lot more time together, eating as a family for instance, and going out together. They had to plan ahead, and phone home - no texting to say you're going to be late, or you've changed your mind.

The programme gave a fascinating glimpse of social history (initially in glorious monochrome) from the power-cuts and strikes of the 1970s, to today's increased freedom from household chores. It also illustrated some very contemporary preoccupations, such as the parents' anachronistic level of concern with health and safety, attitudes to smacking, and the relative freedom then of children to spend time outside, without today's paranoia over "stranger danger".

But there was one major media technology available in the 1970s that was curiously absent. A form of entertainment, and source of information. One that could be used even during the power cuts the family experienced, even when confined to an unheated, game-console-free bedroom "without any supper". One that was virtually omnipresent in the 70s, and that is still widely available. A technology that remains compatible with content produced many years, decades, centuries, even millennia ago. A technology popularised by an invention in Europe in the 15th century.

They had no books!

Perhaps they did, but we didn't see any. Maybe that says more about the priorities of the media people concerned than about the 1970s?


Peter said...

An interesting experiment, back to before, back to future, both will be so funny that people will become to cherish today more.

Anonymous said...

did they make a lot of i contact? or were the contacts in the way of things?