Elizabeth can’t remember when exactly her family got a television. She does remember that there were only two channels (the ABC and the commercial station) and that her grandparents got a colour television before her family did. This was something of a big deal, and she recalls the excitement she felt when her and her family got to visit.
Elizabeth grew up in rural NSW, where her parents ran a dairy farm. She and her two sisters were expected to help out when needed.
Television wasn’t a big part of Elizabeth’s childhood: there were no shows they watched as a family. Dad was always too busy on the farm. But she does remember Sunday nights with her cousins, sprawled in front of the TV watching Countdown.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s, television played a very different role in Elizabeth’s life compared to what it does now.
One of Elizabeth’s most vivid memories is of watching the first moon landing in 1969. She was seven years old at the time. The teachers gathered all the infants children in the hall, ready to witness one of the most historic moments in all of human history.
“The screen was very small, and I was very far away from it,” she recalls, “and the image was not very good.”
There were a couple of hundred students in that hall. Elizabeth could barely see a thing, but it is something she’s never forgotten.
Imagine watching this footage from a distance of twenty metres, on a screen not much bigger than that of your laptop, in a room filled with excited children.
Nowadays, as a primary school teacher herself, she and her small class of students have a SmartBoard all to themselves. They can easily look up the moon landing on YouTube, and watch it on a screen that is half as tall as the wall on which it stands. Even though Elizabeth was only seven, it has stuck in her mind. The first moon landing is one of the great moments, and one of the first, where an enormous amount of people from all over the world watched history unfold together.
Elizabeth recalls another night in her life. She was living with her sister at the time, but one night, found she couldn’t sleep. She wandered through to the TV only to hear the breaking news, that Space Shuttle Challenger had disintegrated, not even five minutes into its flight. As she remembers, it was the first global disaster she’d watched unfold from the beginning.
Like many people around the world, she watched Princess Diana’s funeral, and awoke to watch the horror of 9/11.
For her, what she remembers most about television are the global events that were broadcast. To her, television is, first and foremost, a way to connect with the rest of the world. Whether it be through tragedy or a victory for humanity, television brought the rest of the world into her home.
Many people feel this connection between television and interaction with others. For many families, like Elizabeth’s, television became a way to spend time together. For others, it completely altered the family dynamics.
Nevertheless, television has made a huge imprint upon the lives of people around the world. Everyone has a story to tell.
Elizabeth’s story is just one of billions.
Note: Elizabeth preferred not to have her real name revealed for privacy reasons