After having a conversation with my lovely grandmother, Barbie, she reflected on her first memories of owning a television. Of course, during her childhood, television wasn’t an option– they relied on radio as their form of entertainment. She recalls everyone rushing to hear a radio program, and arguing over which station to listen to.
Barbie first bought a television when her and my grandfather were first married– it was small, black and white, “nothing special by today’s standards but, gosh, it was special then!” Barbie said.
Listening to her reflect on this time of her life, I cannot imagine the years of mine without the presence of a screen. I don’t remember the first time I watched a TV or went to the cinemas. Computers were only gaining popularity in the early days of my own life but I always knew what one was, I always had that engagement. For my grandparents, that engagement didn’t begin until they started their lives… together.
Barbie said that most of the programs on TV were things like game shows and quizzes, sport and dancing. A lot of “reality” television, but much classier than what we have on the TV today. “It didn’t matter what was on, we were just happy that anything was on!” Her and my grandfather spent most of their evenings enthralled by the screen, producing meaningless shows, but they watched because it was exciting. That’s not what it’s like for us today. To be honest, I only watch the TV because it’s upstairs when I’m eating my dinner. I consume a small amount of TV news so I don’t feel like I’m completely living under a rock, and I save my fictional programs for Netflix.
I could see Barbie thinking about the way this invention has impacted on her life. As a young girl living in England during the second world war, she recalls having to rush down to her basement when the bomb siren would go off. “And then during the Vietnam War, even though I wasn’t in it, it was right before my eyes. You couldn’t escape the terror.”
From the evolution of the TV, and the media’s gradual exposure on TV, Barbie is well accustomed to the gruesome things happening in our world. While it’s made her more aware and conscious, perhaps in her old age quite anxious, she is thankful. “I love crosswords, puzzles and reading, but the TV allows me to switch off. I can retain information without thinking. I love watching shows about animals and the world around me, because now I’m too old to go and see some of those things for myself.”
She’s lucky, Barbie, because she doesn’t have the iPhone or computer to distract her. She’s old fashioned, not one of those up-to-date nannas that love to chat with oldies on Facebook. If Barbie is watching the TV, she’s watching the TV. And if it’s broken? This doesn’t phase her. The world isn’t over. She will read a book instead. She lived nearly half her life without screens dominating her world, and while she appreciates them, she’s quite content without them.