February 12, 2013

TV in your hand? You're kidding!

It's become a cliché to talk about the marvels of technology. For the youngsters out there, it isn’t even a marvel, just something they’ve grown up with and always known.

But for those of us who remember this ad, there’s truly something remarkable about it. Take this ad for Sony. We were excited - perhaps even stunned - by the idea of a television set so small it could be held in the hand.

Imagine, as the ad says: now you could carry your television around with you, like a book.  Watch it next to your bed, on the desk at your office, picnicking on the patio.  It even had a battery pack that you could use to make it truly portable.  For those who remembered a picture tube that size encased in a huge, bulky console that sat in the living room - well, it must have been an amazing thought.

Fast-forward* to today.  What's the big deal about being able to carry your television around like a book?  Thanks to the iPad, we can have both television and book all in one slim tablet.  Watching TV at work?  Anyone with a computer can do that.  Got an iPhone?  That alone makes your Sony look ancient, and it picks up more stations besides.  In other words, the future did come true - and yet it's completely unrecognizable.

*If the term "fast forward" itself hasn't become anachronistic.

A more familiar ad for the tiny Sony.
Think about this for a moment, because it's so easy to take it for granted.  In the span of a few years, we've developed a machine, not that much bigger than a credit card, that allows you to watch television, make a phone call, listen to music, access the internet (something that wasn't even around when this ad ran), keep a calendar, - in short, you can carry your whole life around in that little thing.  Any of this technology would be amazing, but to think you can have it all, right there in the palm of your hand - for about the same price as that television!

A while back I wrote about how the cell phone had changed so many of the standard plot elements of classic TV, and another about how the ads we saw back then described a culture that simply doesn't exist anymore.  And again, this isn't meant as criticism.  The advancements in technology have been truly incredible, enabling us to do things we would once have thought amazing, but now we don't even bat an eye at them.  Ads like this don't just demonstrate another time - they show us another way of life entirely.

The ad copy is spot-on: today you can hold the future in your hand.  It's just a future that, back then, would have been unimaginable.

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