The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Things We Don’t See Anymore …
February 11, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Audio Visual, Design

Yes … I really am talking about a plant on a television.

That might not seem like a massive change, but to me it is.

I remember growing up with all sorts of stuff resting on our television … lamps … plants [a little cactus] … ornaments and, at Christmas time, a little nativity setting.

Of course it was easy back then because TV’s were so massive, it could almost double as your dining room table … but now, with their ultra-thin screens, you can put nothing on them and in a weird way, that’s kinda sad.

I know … I know … you think I’m being ultra-sentimental and I guess I am … but the beauty of having a TV so wide you could rest all manner of things on it was that you were able to inadvertently customise it with things that made it part of your home as opposed to simply being an object within the home.

Of course I shouldn’t be surprised as this is just part of the technological lifestyle evolution that has been going on since the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Back then – when arguably, audio visual technology changed our lives more than it does today – everything was created to fit in with our furniture rather than stand out.

Televisions were placed in cabinets and hi-fi’s were hidden inside sideboards – only to be seen when you wished to play a record or watch a show.

It was all part of the belief that the home was where ‘you interacted with family’ and – unless you were doing something as a family – technology should be experienced, not seen.

Then the 80’s and early 90’s came and we saw a shift in attitudes.

Technological advancement in audio visual equipment had evolved massively and suddenly these objects became products of desire … status symbols, if you will.

[The above pic is the stereo I got for my 21st birthday. It still works as I took this photo a couple of weeks ago when I was back at home]

From being hidden away, they were now something to be seen … admired … coveted … however because culturally we had been educated to think these products should be part of the home rather than be the focus of the home, we found ways to blend them in rather than place them on a pedestal.

Which is why we put lamps on them. Or nativity sets.

But now we’re in the 3rd phase.

Where these objects are recognised as things worthy of their own status.

Almost like they are a decoration.

Which might be why we hang televisions on the wall or place speakers in our ceilings.

And while you could argue it is almost like we’ve gone back to the 50’s by incorporating this equipment into our lives rather than letting them stand out, I would argue differently.

Regardless how thin a 50” television is, it’s still a 50” television.

It’s created to be seen.

Focused on.

And while the consultancy, Red, told Samsung that the best way to sell their flat screen televisions was to help them blend into the room [as women didn’t want it to be the centre of attention, see page 4 of the link] there’s only so much you can do to disguise it.

You can’t even put a plant on it.

Which means it owns the room rather than you owning the television.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and – believe it or not – a tidy house, but I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the days where audio visual equipment was created to fit in with your life rather than be a symbol of a generic, soulless lifestyle.


Interesting post Rob. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I hadn’t thought about consumer technology design in these terms before but it’s an interesting point, especially with the projects I’m working on at the moment. Was this the premise of the presentation you have to B&O? If it is, how did it go down. And your 21st birthday stereo looks impressive. Is that a double CD drawer I see? Show off.

Comment by Pete

You are right Pete, I don’t think you should be admitting that. Fortunately no one of repute reads this blog so you get to fight another day. You must have looked at the photo of Robert’s stereo very carefully to spot the twin CD drawers. Jealousy perhaps?

Comment by George

Glad you like it. This is basically what I presented to B&O … except I took 40 slides to say exactly the same thing.

And yes, it was a double drawer CD … allowed me to do mixing in real time. Not that I ever did it, but it was nice to know I could. Let’s be honest, that’s the secret to selling tech, the illusion of possibility. Worked for INTEL pretty well.

Comment by Rob

Intel sold FOMO before FOMO was even a thing.

Comment by Pete

I’m sending this to a few people before Pete sends it to a few people. Good post. It’s made me think about a few things which is more than some of your posts have achieved.

Comment by Bazza

What B&O presentation?

Comment by Bazza

Too late.

Comment by Pete

The one where the cruise line executives wondered what on earth he was talking about.

Comment by John

that was almost funny doddsy. well done.

Comment by andy@cynic

Are you sending it to them in a good way or a “never do what this bloke is saying” kind of way?

Comment by Rob

All this post shows is you were spoilt as a kid.

Comment by DH

campbell was born in 1970. that means that monolith of stereo was given to him in 1991 even though its design is straight from the fucking yuppie 80s which means this post shows he was unfashionable even when he had a full head of fucking hair.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just so you know Rob, there’s absolutely no hypocrisy at all writing a post about the ego of modern technology design even though your home is cram packed with the stuff.

Comment by DH

I agree. Totally.

Comment by Rob

Two things come to mind.

Firstly, that TV was in far less use than today’s versions because of the lack of channels and programming so there’s a mixture of it interposing into regular life and being less utilitarian than today’s devices.

Secondly, at that time people had far less stuff than they did in the 80s or 90s and the attitude to them was different so display of ornaments etc may have been accepted decoration rather than seen as kitsch clutter.

Comment by John

you make it sound like you live in a fucking ikea minimalism paradise doddsy. you might be right about the kitch shit but i think they were bought as physical memories of day trips to bridlington when now you have a mobile phone that can be filled with pictures to remind you what a fucking dump it is so you can clear your shelves of cheap shit tat.

Comment by andy@cynic

Neither minimalist nor paradisical and, as ever, you make a good point about memories. Though personally, I’ve always thought memories were inherently internal and suspected that the physical or virtual embodiment of them is more about bragging than recall.

Comment by John

bragging at how fucking bad your taste is then.

Comment by andy@cynic

Instagram shows there’s a very fine line between memories and bragging.

Comment by Pete

Totally agree that one of the reasons people bought [horrible[ trinkets was to represent an experience they wanted to hold as a memory as well as have potential bragging rights to curious friends when they came to visit.

That’s basically why inviting the neighbours over to watch a slideshow of your recent holiday in Athens was so popular in the 70’s.

Thank god we’ve moved on from those times. Except – as Pete says – Instagram is the modern equivalent. Except my instragram, which is more the modern version of the freak show.

Comment by Rob

Interesting perspective Robert. I think there would be a number of factors that contributed to some of those design approaches (John highlights a couple in his comment) but your viewpoint still articulates the phases and the implications of those decisions in a thought provoking way. If you have the presentation Pete refers to, I would love to see it.

Comment by George

I’ll send it to you then you can regret saying that at your own leisure. Ha.

Comment by Rob

It’s interesting how technology changes and how culture adapts in response to how we perceive it.

I was doing some research recently on posh cars and a guy pointed out an interesting thing: in the past, more buttons meant more advanced technology (take your complicated hi-fi, for example), whereas now, it’s ‘the fewer the better’ (the iPhone/iPad setting the example for this paradigm).

Simplicity is now the yardstick for sophistication, rather than complexity.

One more thing – in regard to very thin tellies, where does the cat sleep now? Mine always used to curl up on top of the TV.

Comment by Ian Gee

That’s a good point Ian … which kinda-shows what a sad bastard I am because I once was buying a car and the salesman asked if I would like to hear about any of the options.

I responded with this:

“You know where there are spaces for a button across the dashboard? I want every one filled so simply quote me for whatever option will achieve that”.

I have never seen a salesman so happy.

As for the cat?

She sleeps wherever she damn well pleases. Haha.

Comment by Rob

You are the king of tragic Rob.

Comment by DH

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