The memory is fickle. We plod through life without ever fully realizing how much data our happy little brains record daily.
Case in point: Milky. I ran across an old TV commercial and found myself momentarily existing in a bygone era. Join me in the Way, Way Back Machine and I’ll take you on a ludicrous history lesson.
Television. It has been around for quite a long time, in one form or another.
Mechanical television dates back to Dr. Paul Nipkow’s 1884 laboratory and is practically useless until a handsome Scotsman by the name of John Logie Baird came along and invented his “televisor”. Ah, the first MTV.
The “televisor” was a cumbersome behemoth. It was housed in an enormous cabinet that contained not only a large incandescent bulb but also a massive spinning wheel. TV, you see, is based upon persistence-of-vision, an odd happenstance whereby the human eye can be tricked into believing an object is in motion simply because a series of slightly-varied still images has been presented rather quickly over a short period of time. The concept is best demonstrated by flip-books. If you can move the pages so that at least ten per second sweep past your eye, drawings on the pages will become animated. That is, your brain is tricked into thinking that the scene is moving.
Baird’s televisor produced a very blurred image that was a constant a strain on the eyes, and it never really caught on. Mechanical wheels were cumbersome. Bulbs were never bright enough. Viewing position (that little hole on the right side of the cabinet, by the way) was awkward. No, the future certainly was the electronic “television” and humanity embraced it with a passion.
Fast-forward to the early 1970’s. A young child sits in front of a massive Zennith floor model television. Her vantage point is no less than three feet away (because any closer will lead to blindness) and she is never permitted to lie on her back to watch (because that, too, will cause blindness) and her entire TV world exists on less than five channels (gasp!) which must be manually changed by turning a knob. The wooden television housing protects all the essential parts (tubes, diodes, weird humming bits that children should never touch) and weighs more than the child herself.
Flat screen? One could have a flat screen TV if one was stupid enough to climb the front of the cabinet, thus causing the entire thing to flip forward onto the person. Plasma was, of course, what you received at the hospital after your mother rescued you.
My 1970s TV-viewing experience was limited. My parents’ (boring) news and (boring) programs dominated the evening hours. Yes, there were some shared interests (Muppets, the occasional holiday special, M*A*S*H) but my TV Time primarily existed between 3-5 PM on weekdays and 7-noon on Saturday. Weekdays offered only one channel. Saturdays offered ABC, CBS and NBC.
All of these hours contained a mind-boggling array of cartoons. Each cartoon, with the exception of Bugs Bunny/Looney Toons and some anime, carried some sort of friendly message (oh my gosh – morals!) and was presented in crude motion. Smurfs, My Pretty Pony, Smurfs, G.I. Joe, Smurfs, He-Man, Smurfs and Care Bears rotted our brains.
Nickelodeon came along much later, by the way. It offered only a few hours of programming; the world was introduced to Slime.
Now that I think about it, many of the programs from my childhood seem to be making a comeback: A-Team, Speed Racer, Yogi Bear, Flintstones and so on. I suppose it will only be a matter of time before someone remakes those Smurfs into something appealingly modern.
Accompanying this inane children’s programming was a plethora of bizarre commercials. Finally, we come back to Milky. You know, the commercial that I mentioned before we boarded the Way, Way Back Machine?
It looks harmless, doesn’t it? Would you like to see it in motion? Be sure to mute the music (upper right hand column) first.
This sort of asininity isn’t limited to one plastic bovine. Oh no. We had dozens of toys pimped by dozens of manufacturers. We also had “educational” toys. How many people know what a “Speak & Spell” is? (How many of us remember that voice?)
John Logie Baird could not have imagined the end results of his hard work. TV commercials have plagued us since Bulova spent a whopping $9 to run the very first ad in 1941 (on July 1, my birthday of all things.) Denmark’s national broadcasting corporation (Danmarks Radio) is the only place where, to my knowledge, you will not find commercials although you must pay for your annual license.
Alas, the Danes were forced to come up with their own live-action version of Milky.