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!


A Valdese Blogger said...

I remember my 45 rpms!

Brit Boy said...

A Valdese Blogger
I've still got mine! Nothing to play them on mind :-)

Buggys said...

So this clearly shows the breakdown of our society, not just the family unit. I'm not shocked but I would enjoy seeing the program here in the US.
Our youngest daughter is 23, married with a child. She works 4 days a week and she can't seem to get anything done or even return a phone call because she's sooo busy! Not sure she knows what real busy vs. selfish actually is.

RE - RecycledFrockery said...

that is a very good show. watched an episode the other nite, it's hopefully a series .. is it ?

thanks for running my ad today.

Brit Boy said...

Yes, it was interesting to see how what has happened to society at large was reflected in this one family unit. I hope your daughter returns that call soon! :-)

It was a series of 3 programmes, one for each of the 70s, 80s and 90s. They do seem to be repeating it a lot so I hope that you get to see the other two episodes. Thanks for dropping by.

jacqueline said...

Oh, how I miss the simple times. . .more and more each passing day. As Stevie Wonder sings, "I wish those days could come back once more..."

I sometimes ask myself. What did we really gain?

Brit Boy said...

I know what you mean. Life seemed so much simpler back in the day. And you are right - we have had change, but have we really had progress?!

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