Just imagine for a moment that you are living in the early 1970s. You are sitting in your living room in the evening, curtains drawn, wearing your flared trousers and your stripy tank top and munching on a Texan bar whilst watching the television. Henry Cooper is advertising Brut and he’s splashing it all over.
You are all settled for a night in but suddenly you are overcome with concern. You look at the cuckoo clock on the wall and you see it is 9.30. In an hour’s time the television is going to stop, with the National Anthem followed by a dot in the middle of the screen and a white noise which will continue until you can find the motivation to walk across the room and switch it off.
You’ve lost interest in the bland comedy they’re showing on ITV and decide to investigate what is on the other channels. So you lean over to the pile of junk beside your armchair and pull out the latest copy of the Radio Times, which inevitably is buried somewhere near the bottom. Having fumbled through to the correct page you look through the listings and discover that on BBC2 there is a documentary about the feeding habits of the spiny anteater. On BBC1 there is a repeat showing of last week’s weather forecast. Er…and that’s it!
Hanging on the telephone
Then you remember that you had promised to ‘phone your friend, but the telephone is in the hallway so that’s where you must go if you want to do the deed. You open the door, switch on the light, sit on the stair and lift the receiver which strains at the end of a big curly string, which first requires untangling. When eventually you have done this you put it to your ear, only to discover that the lady down the road who shares the party line with you is deep in conversation with her aunt Ethel, and so you have to wait until she is done.
Deciding enough is enough, you put on your wide-collared, fleece-lined coat, open the door and clunk along the street in your platforms towards the off licence to get yourself a Cydrax. And who could blame you?
Fast forward (what’s fast forward?) to the 21st century and the big wooden set has been replaced by a sleek widescreen smart TV in a simple but durable black plastic finish. You pick up the remote, get the guide list up on the screen and flick through scores, maybe hundreds of channels to find one that appeals. If it’s something you’ve missed you can watch it again on +1, or if there is more than programme that you like you can record one whilst watching the other. And if you’re not tired you can watch it all through the night.
You pick up your Apple iPhone to call your friend. You can’t remember his number but you don’t need it – it’s safely stored in the Contacts list. If you like you can Facetime him, or speak to him on Skype or any manner of similar applications, and look at him as you talk. It doesn’t matter how long you chat for because you’ve got unlimited minutes and stacks of data left on your allowance, and in any event you can always hook into the Wi-Fi.
It’s a modern world
There are many things about the past that are worth pining for, but technology isn’t one of them. For a gadget nerd like me, it sounds like it must have been a living hell. So much seems to have happened within the space of a few decades, sometimes without us fully appreciating the pace of progress.
I don’t know how Ethel would have coped if she’d been alive today.