Channel Surfing

“The TV is the same size as your microwave.”

“There are only two channels.”

“The picture is in black and white.”

“And the channels turn off at midnight every night and don’t come back on until 6am the next morning.”

Sound like a nightmare? Well it’s actually just television in the 70’s. Crazy right!? No flat screens, no digital television, no smart TV’s that know you by name and automatically record all of your favourite shows as soon as you step foot out of the room.

For the purpose of this blog I undertook an interview with a lady named Mary* to discover a little more about television in the 1970’s. Mary was just a child during this time and was living at home with her parents and younger brother. Television during Mary’s childhood was very different to what I grew up with and the answers I received surprised me quite a lot. It’s hard to imagine television channels turning off at midnight. All I have ever known is 2am infomercials and 4.30am aerobics. But the 70’s was a different era and after the national anthem played every night at 12, the channels would switch off and the test pattern symbol would appear until early the next morning.

After speaking with Mary, I picture the televisions of the 70’s to be big, bulky and brown. Mary described it as a large, square, wooden box with dials on the side to change the channels and volume. Yes, that’s right, people actually had to leave the lounge to change the channel back in those days. According to Jacobs (2013), television remotes were invented in the 1970s but were originally attached to the TV with a cord. However this was something Mary’s family did not have. The family only had 1 television in the house which was located in the lounge room. The television was the centrepiece of the room with the brown, fabric lounges facing towards it. The family would sit down together and watch TV of a night (with the parents always choosing the program of course). For Mary and her younger brother, watching TV whilst eating dinner was a big no-no, and choosing to watch TV before completing homework was an even bigger no-no.


Yes, TVs really looked like this in the 1970s Source

“What are we going to watch tonight family? Take your pick of ABC or RVN, the only two channels that exist.”

Yes, you heard me, a huge selection of two channels with a black and white picture. The 1970s marked the era where colour television was introduced (Australian Government, 2007). However many families (like Mary’s) stuck to black and white due to the heavy cost of buying a new TV. But to Mary and her family, just having any kind of television was a luxury. It was even more of a luxury when Mary received her very own TV at the age of 16. A “small, round, white bubble” that all the cool kids on the block wanted (Mary informed me she was most definitely the coolest of all the kids).

As the conversation continued, Mary told me a story about the time she won a prize by entering a competition on one of her favourite television shows Contest Corner. The television show held a competition where entrants had to design their own Mother’s Day card. Mary’s unique design with pressed flowers on the front won her a heavy metal record. “The title of the record was ‘Heavy’, they really thought long and hard about that one!”, she exclaimed. Mary informed me that this was one of her most memorable (and most exciting) moments of watching television and something she will never forget (unfortunately she no longer has the heavy metal record).

Being able to reflect on these memories was a special moment for Mary as watching television with her family was seen as a bonding time. It was a common practice for the family to sit down together on a Sunday night and watch the classic music show Countdown, that was introduced to television in the early 70s (, 2016). Watching TV was a time of relaxation, where the family could unwind from the days activities and enjoy each others company.

Television has come so far over the decades with astonishing advancements in technology. But it was definitely great to travel back in time for a while and reflect on someone else’s experience. Especially when it is so different to my own.

On a side note: Mary actually has a 50 inch plasma in her lounge room now, don’t panic everyone. It even came with a remote!

Until next time,

*not a real name (for privacy reasons of course).


Australian Government 2007, Popular Australian Television, Australian Government, viewed 6 August 2016, <;.

Jacobs, C 2013, A household history of the television,, viewed 6 August 2016, <;. 2016, 1970 – 1979,, viewed 6 August 2016, <;.


One thought on “Channel Surfing

  1. Pingback: Collaborative research: pros and cons. – Cuong Lam

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