There are a lot of things that I have witnessed in my lifetime – being woken late at night to watch the horrors of 9/11 live, the royal wedding, many wars and conflicts and countless celebrity make-ups, break-ups and deaths. All these events can be linked to the wonderful power of television.
Where would we be without the humble black box that projects the world’s stories into our living rooms? Well, there was once a day where TV was not that common and – shock! – people had to search elsewhere for their daily news and entertainment.
However, my mum is not quite that old. Born at the end of the Baby Boomers generation in 1959, Mum does not, like me, remember a time without TV in the house. It was simply a piece of furniture, a long, brown box with buttons on the right and a dial right at the top. Switched on every evening at 6pm ready for the ABC News which would present the daily news by a fairly ugly, old man with bushy eyebrows – think John Howard – and big, black, square glasses. The TV was always controlled by Dad – what he wanted to watch, what volume he wanted it to be on, when we had to be quiet because the cricket was on but he never got up to change the channels, that was always my job.
The television was never used as a background noise it was either on and we were watching it; or it was off because we were eating or entertaining. But in saying that, if there was someone really good on, on Countdown, it was not rare that my friends and their parents would come over for a casual dinner and the kids would watch TV.
The TV was something that was used to help us relax of a night, provide light entertainment and was extremely family orientated, it brought us together of an evening. However now, it polarises people as they watch their own shows, in their own spaces at their own pleasure.
Despite all the social sides of TV it was also good at being a clock as the ending of the Flintstones signified bedtime in our household. When the “Yabba Dabba Do” part rang out, it was time for bed – no arguments.
As I grew older, there was a deeper appreciation for what the TV could provide us. I was in Year 4 when my teacher wheeled in a TV from his own house, and plugged it in ready to watch the moon landing. It was more shocking that we got to watch TV at school than to see a man step down on to the moon. But you were also aware that no one knew what was going to happen to him. There was about 120 students packed, like sardines into the one classroom and the entire classroom held our breaths when Armstrong said his famous line, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” it was just so freaking cool!
However, the one thing that I remember vividly from my childhood and until my teenage years was the Vietnam War coverage on evening news.It was scary watching these images of our men fighting and being carried out on stretchers, injured. I remember my mother tutting at the news and my younger sister and I asking all the questions – who, what, when, where, why?
If there had been a big battle or a large number of troops injured, it was the one time where the TV was left on in the background. The coverage of the war really did make the nation stop and think as well as realise the horrors of war. I think this was a pivotal time for television not only in my house but also nationally and probably internationally.