Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Price of Progress ....Part Two

Dori and I have been watching an interesting programme on the BBC over the last week or so. Produced in conjunction with the Open University, it examines the effect of modern technology on today’s society. A family have volunteered to live their lives as though they were living through the 70s, 80s and 90s with each day of the month representing one day of the three decades, starting off in 1970 on day one.

Dori and I often remark on how much has changed during our lifetimes, which isn’t a huge amount of time – no, really, it’s not – and this programme brought that fact home. You really do forget exactly what life was like back then. Most houses didn’t have central heating or double glazing, no freezers, no microwaves, no dishwashers, no colour TV, no CDs, no mobile/cell phones and, of course, no computers let alone the world wide web! Cars had no power steering, air conditioning, or power assisted braking systems. You couldn’t listen to music on the go as the walkman was still years away in the future. We lived in the Stone Age!

The production crew also decorated the family’s house to suit each decade complete with vivid 70s wallpaper, or chintzy 80s furniture. As each day (year) went by so more technology was introduced into the house. At the start of the project the family found that the parents spent much longer doing housework as they had none of the modern conveniences, and had to shop for food just about daily as freezers were yet to reach most houses. The children, in contrast, had more time on their hands than they knew what to do with, without any game consoles, cell phones, mp3 players or much TV to watch – there were just 3 stations, all in black and white and were only showing a test-card for the great majority of the day. So, they ended up spending time together, playing board games or even actually getting out of the house and playing in the great outdoors. Of course, back in the 70s, parents were also more likely to let their kids play out for just about the whole day without worrying too much – a complete contrast to today.

The 70s brought music centres, colour TV, calculators and, at the end of the decade, Pong! The 80s brought primitive computers into the house, slightly more sophisticated games consoles, the walkman, video recorders, CDs and microwaves. During this decade the family started to drift away from their communal activities and found that they had the technology to allow them to entertain themselves more. When the 90s came around so did the Sony Playstation, satellite TVs, mp3 players, mobile phones, digital cameras and, of course, the World Wide Web. The pace of change was ever increasing and the throw-away culture became more evident. The children would be alone in their rooms watching their own TVs, playing on a games console or listening to an mp3 player. And the adults would be doing something similar downstairs. Technology had rent the family unit completely apart.

Modern convenience has given us so much more leisure time but we spend it in such different ways now – more often than not in more individual pursuits and not in enjoying the company of those we love. We surf the net, blog even, we play on games consoles, or we listen to our own music on mp3 players. The price of “progress” indeed.

The BBC and Open University have created a website to go along with this series which is worth a look at, if only to remember how “bad” things really used to be!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Price of Progess ....Part One

So, as Dori mentions in her blog post today, it was a relaxing weekend in the Yellow House this week. We watched some DVDs, worked on a project, and did a bit more organizing of a couple of trips we have coming up before the year’s end. We got some things done that needed doing, but they were done at our own pace and without any self-imposed pressure or timelines. It was a good weekend – despite the weather!

I was also able to watch the highlights of the Ukraine v England World Cup qualifier on Saturday evening. You may not think that is anything remarkable, but there has been a controversy raging here for the past week or so concerning this match. To cut a long story short, the TV company who had the rights for this match went bust a couple of months back, and no other UK TV companies were either able or wanted to step into the breach. As a result, the company to whom the TV rights had reverted decided to screen the match live on the internet with no live TV coverage at all, and charged up to £12 (about $20) for the privilege.

Thankfully, England have already qualified for the World Cup, and so there was no burning need for most people to fork out a portion of their hard-earned dosh to view the game. But the thought of this being the way of the future is not at all appealing. I would certainly not appreciate paying £12 only to spend two hours watching a message say “please wait....buffering”. And, whilst having an option to watch sport online is a good thing, restricting live sport to only the internet is far from it. I hope this isn’t the start of a slippery slope. Anyhoo, the highlights of the game were screened on Saturday night by the BBC, but they had been prevented from advertising the fact that they would do so until after the end of the game (just two hours before their show started). Presumably this was to ensure that everybody who may be tempted to pay for the live coverage would do so and not just wait for the free-to-air highlights on the BBC a couple of hours later. So, it was only by pure luck that I saw the listing for the game on the Electronic Programme Guide as we were flicking through to see what was on.

As it happens, all of this fuss was for nothing as England had their goalkeeper sent-off after 15 minutes and went on to lose the game 1-0. Ho hum.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin