Talking Idiot and The Golden Couch Potato

In my previous article about the birth and influence of video I started with (you might want to give it a quick recap):

Remember that song - "Video killed the radio star" (video) by the British New Wave group - "The Buggles"? By the way, it 'inspired' Bappi Da to create "Koi yahan naache naache" (video). Both of them happened to be smash hits but the original one did point out a trend - video has and will continue to change our life drastically

... and ended with the mind-numbing impact of "The Talkies" and "The Jazz Singer". And, that is where I will begin:

Stop Talking!

We are all used to the "Put your phone on silent" message in beginning of the movie, right? Well that message is about 80 years old, even if there weren't any cellphones. Earlier, it was socially acceptable to make remarks  or "talk back" to the movie. That had to stop as the sound films made their way in. The audience now had to pay attention to the dialogs. Given that sound was relatively new, the technology in the theaters was far from perfect. All the more reason for - "Do you mind?? I am trying to watch a movie here".  As Robert Sklar exclaimed in Movie Made America - "talking audiences for silent pictures became a silent audience for talking pictures"

Censorship takes a blow

The conservative factions had enjoyed a lot of freedom in censoring silent movies. With the "talking" now introduced in movies, "First Amendment" came into play. The promise of free speech was a terrible blow to their powers. See how technology changes the world in multiple ways?
The Idiot (box) controls you
After Vladimir K. Zworykin's invention of "Iconoscope" in the late 1920s, television made long strides to become commercially viable and enter our lives. By 1945, less than 10 TV stations controlled what 8000 American families, their friends, relatives and neighbors discussed for a significant part of their days (a ratio of 1:800). Ten years on... 35 million homes were entertained by 100 stations (a ratio of 1:35000). Video's control had quickly increased by almost 44 times. It has been on a roll ever since. In 60 years, it was to spread from the living room to the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the kitchen... everywhere. 

The Golden Rush
Without starting a fight here, the 1950s were arguably the "Golden age of Movies and TV". Stardom took a new meaning. In a lot of senses, the "Video killed... " song would have been relevant 20 years before it came out (in '79). Video controlled us the way Radio never could. It was much more convincing - after all seeing is believing. In term of its significance on the way we lived our lives, this decade was no less than earth shattering. Now, why would I say that? For the first time in the history, high quality art was accessible to the common man as a heady mix of high-end technology, theater, radio, post-war syndrome, film making techniques... it was like the renaissance in a lot of ways.

Sofa Spud,  Couch potato and the TV Drone
By the 1960s, video had increased pre-recorded noise levels in 95% of American homes. We were (for better or for worse) surprised, moved, hurt, scared ... without human intervention. Television was driving and feeding our curiosity. In the next few decades "man" trained his brain to be entertained without moving a leg. That's when the phrase "couch potato" came into existence on July 15th 1976. The term quickly became popular on our cartoon strips, magazines, T-shirts, toys... The British Potato Council reportedly campaigned to promote the use of "couch slouch" instead of "couch potato" because it damaged the vegetable's image. Don't believe me? Read this BBC report

That's it for today. See you in next part of this "Video Life" series


In the past few months I have been researching on a variety of topics. "Video" being one of them, I asked people - "How important is YouTube to you? Check it out. 

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