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...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Didn't Quite Make It - Part 1

Haven't you ever wondered what is the central impetus for an invention catching on...or not?

Usually people point out that it's a question of:

1- Usefulness
2- Price
3- Mass Production
4- Brand Competition
5- And of course, that undefinable, consumer "Ingredient X"

Take this idea below, which on paper seems not a heckuva lot different from what we have today:

This photo is of a family somewhere in Britain, sometime in the 1940's, when television was being marketed for the first time there.

The catch is...it's a coin-operated television set!

This was originally going to be the norm for television sets, given the expense of programming (cameras, technician crews, personnel, producers, directors, actors, etc.) to a very limited audience.

Can you imagine if this idea had caught on, due perhaps to the post-war pinch felt by so many around the world.

Well, it's not difficult to imagine why, is it?

At the same time this 2 parent, 2 child family unit (oh hated phrase), in a modest-looking home were putting their coins in for family fun hour, they were still using clothing coupons, ration books and other wartime austerity measures long after the Second World War had come to a mushroom cloud halt.

And it would've made complete sense if a mass-produced television set, perhaps bought on account, had been pay-as-you-go, rather like the Jukebox or vending machines only just then making their debuts.

Plus, anyone in a boardinghouse who lacked sufficient shillings to heat their rooms knew all too well about pay-as-you go.

Furthermore, though this is not the case in the US, in many parts of the world, state-owned or directed television entities like the BBC were available only after paying a licence fee -- and that's not unlike paying to watch television, save it's not as frequent.

So you see, the concept COULD have taken off but it didn't.

By and large around the world, the idea of terrestrial television, free-to-air, is seen as almost a modern birthright.

Once you buy the set, you're off.

It's only in the 1980's, when the rise of cable and satellite television hit the mainstream, that paying to watch television, including paying fees to watch certain programmes, films, or events, came to be seen as normal.

It seems, then, that the all-important convenience factor in television won out, until a more improved, wider variety of programming could legitimately be seen as extra-pocket.

And thank heavens it did.

Can you imagine me, the person who is always seemingly a quarter short to start a load of laundry, having to root around for loose change to watch the Simpsons?

I don't even want to think of my father running out of dosh just as England score in the World Cup.

Yes, it's a good job GE went with one-charge television sets, else I would've been visiting my father in the Big House...just to watch his free TV.


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