Television, the Electronic Marvel

Television changed the way Americans entertained themselves. While the first television set was put on display in 1929 as part of the “home of tomorrow,” televisions were not common until the late 1940s. Baby boom generation members Steve Oliver and Sarah Fountain describe life before television when they played outside, read books, listened to the radio, or played board games. According to Dr. Allison Alexander, at the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism, comic books were one of the most favorite forms of entertainment for kids. However, after the introduction of television, the comic book market fell apart. During the 1950s, television programming was very family oriented; for example, kids loved the Mickey Mouse Club. Programming changed with the times, and soon Americans watched news images of the brutal treatment of African Americans as they protested peacefully asking society to change. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta states that white cameramen often had the most dangerous jobs and some of the most violent reactions were aimed at them. Lewis contends that without television, the Civil Rights movement would have been like a bird without wings. During the 1960s, television changed the way Americans thought about war. Disturbing images of the battles in Viet Nam brought the war home. Barry Sherman, in the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism, notes that television made the war more personal. It forced Americans to question why it was happening rather than blindly following government policies. The impact of television on American society cannot be ignored.

Teacher tip: The Internet has changed America as much or more than the introduction of television. Compare the use of the Internet to the introduction and use of television in American homes. How is the impact of both mediums alike and how is it different?