Living in the 70s – the BBC documentary Electric Dreams

I grew up in the 70s. But were they the ‘good old days’?

A BBC television documentary placed two parents and four children in their home with only the amenities available during each of the previous three decades (1970s, 1980s and 1990s) and recording their responses to technological change.

The programme follows the family’s adaption and reaction to being thrown back in time to a more technologically sparse period and how their pastimes and attitudes change in response to both landing in the early 1970s and coming up-to-date.

The episodes revealed the huge transformation that technological change has wrought on British family life over the past 40 years. The children have to cope when they swapped Facebook for black-and-white telly and vinyl records.

33⅓ LP vinyl record album

It was goodbye to their three game consoles, three DVD players, five mobile phones, six televisions and seven computers, not to mention their dishwasher, two washing machines and tumble dryer. The teenager had to do a pre-dawn paper boy run.

Filming occurred over the winter of 2009, which was particularly cold and snowy for England, a fact which figured into the story when the family had to endure cold nights early in the project. The lack of central heating was simulated for the 70s episode.

How much would you pay to go back to the 1970s or whenever you define as the good old days?

A way to grasp the conceptual difficulties of measuring changes in living standards and life expectancies across the decades is to step into Brad De Long’s time machine.

In this thought experiment, De Long asks how much you would want in additional income to agree to go back in time to a specific year. De Long was an economic historian examining the differences in American living standards since 1990.

De Long would have refused to go at all to 1900 unless he could at least have taken mid-20th century modern medicine with him. Otherwise, it would have meant dying from a childhood phenomena. I would have probably died from appendicitis if I was a teenager in 1900. Instead, I spent 10 days in hospital in the 1970s.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Living in the 70s – the BBC documentary Electric Dreams | Official site of DJ Michael Heath
  2. Trackback: @JimPethokoukis @Mark_J_Perry Would you step into a time machine to go back to the 70s glory days? | Utopia - you are standing in it!

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