the pre-tv generations archive

"What do you do," people ask, "if you don't watch television?" One of our members has five kids. "How do you manage?" people ask her "without children’s TV?" - as if humans spent 250 thousand years waiting for Barney.

Who cares about "the first iPod generation"? Chances are they'll be intolerably dull. What about the last generations of people to live in a world without television? How did they live, and what are we about to lose forever?

White Dot is compiling an archive of memories and advice from anyone who remembers life before TV.    Please help us add to it!

If you grew up before TV, or know someone who did, please tell us what has changed. Details details! We want to know what people did to relax, play, think alone or gather together a gang. All the parenting and social skills that TV is taking away.

what it was likeaccording to
I am autistic and due to where I live being so boring and dull & people are so clicky meaning it is hard for me to make any friends I find that TV , Streaming , Music & internet greatly enhance my life. It is not TV that is at fault it is what you watch . Soaps , Reality type TV & so-called Talent shows & general daytime TV do give Television a very bad name but there is some very entertaining shows and documentaries out there . It is just a shame that the TV that the majority go for gives it a bad name.
Steve From Atherstone , North Warwickshire
As a boy born in 1952 we were outside all the time, almost as if we weren't welcome indoors except in prolonged rain. No snacks - I don't remember being hungry though. Climbing trees, bareback riding other peoples horses, poaching fish, river swimming, lots of fires, roasting potatoes in their skin not foil, helping Dad with his allotments, train spotting, putting pennies on the railway line to stamp them with passing trains, stamp collecting, reading books, making dens, digging out long tunnels, observing the chicks growing in our collection of nests each spring, rescuing injured animals eg owls, war games, marbles, visiting ancient aunts in their time frozen parlours, choir singing for two and six each Sunday, scrumping, collecting fallen walnuts, sledging, cycling. We certainly did things which would now be considered dangerous or anti social, we weren't afraid of strangers. We were aware of who the 'toffs' were. Never missed school only dobbed off once or twice. 'Ran away' from home once or twice.
It was a varied and healthy existence and of course I remember being bored at times which I guess is a normal feature of development. As more of my friends had TVs I remember playing more on my own as they stayed in and eventually I spent more time in their houses fascinated by the moving pictures eg The Lone Ranger. We succumbed around the time of Kennedy's assassination. I still see TV as an intruder -great for slobbing out brain dead for a while but essentially a lousy companion with it's psychotic tendency to flicker from topic to topic with no continuity and it's inability to hold a thought or emotion. Sorry - I have just read the above - I did not realise this was for children - oh well here it is anyway.
Fred from rural Hampshire. UK
We did not have our own TV set until I was 7 or 8 years old. So I spent my time as young child reading, listening to my 78 RPM phonograph or building things with my Tinkertoy set.

When we moved to a large city, we had a TV set, but when it broke down, it was sometimes awhile before it got repaired, so I would play board games with my neighborhood friends. If by myself I would read or build things with my Erector Set (similar to a Meccano set in the UK).

If it was nice outside we would ride our bicycles or build skate boards out of old roller skates and ride those. If the weather was warm we would have water balloon fights. We were allowed to stay outside until the street lights came on at dusk, that was our signal that it was time to go home for dinner.
Bob from United States
I am interesed from this project.
anonymous from anytown
I was born in 1978, so television has always been there, even after I decided to avoid it. I remember seeing representatives of White Dot promote the book Get A Life on late night Channel 4 when I was 19. I thought it was quirky, seeing the idea of giving up TV being mocked by Iain Lee. Two years later, I noticed that watching TV wasn't so gratifying any more and wondered how to fill my free time. I joined a local social club and was their publicity officer I sang in productions for an operatic society and became a councillor on a local council. I also sing a capella at folk clubs and try to make the most of my life. I don't mean to brag and boast, but my life has definitely changed for the better after giving up TV.

People who try to live without TV are fighting a battle that is nigh on impossible to win in a way it's like living on the fringes of civilisation. But it is a lot of fun!There are so many things I couldn't have done if my time was gobbled up by what White Dot called a piece of furniture back in 1998. I wish everyone at White Dot and all those who live without TV good luck.
John from Essex, UK
Fewer..

before we all got boring


What games did you play? How did you relax? How did you get into trouble? What did you talk about and think about? Did real life feel different before people just watched it on TV?

talk to older adults!

Click here to download our Archive Guide.
Talk with older adults about life before television, and bring their answers back to this webpage. We've written our questions for adults or children, and the Pre-TV Generations Archive is a great classroom activity, a chance for young people to learn about their parents, their grandparents and the state of their own childhood.

what are we missing today?
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