Wednesday, July 13, 2011

past, present, future

When you're an outsider, some things stand out to you. In my last visit to the United States, I was strikingly surprised to find a sign that read "Available Space" at several locations that were previously occupied by Borders and Barnes and Noble. I was also surprised to find very few bookstores remained in San Francisco and the ones that did, advertised in their website "one of the few bookstores remaining in the city".

I was happy to come back to my house and to our big library. I find it a bit hard to adapt to the idea that in the near future I'll probably be switching to e-books although I do intend to keep all the books in our library as memories from the past. Except for those books I free, of course.

Our library has received some additions in the last year. My beloved father-in-law passed away leaving a huge book collection. I was very sad when he died and had not touched his books until today. His books are older than ours. I came across a book called "La vida cotidiana en Buenos Aires" (Every Day Life in Buenos Aires), by Andres Carretero (Planeta), that discusses the development of Argentine society from 1918 to 1970. Reading the pages of Carretero's book, a few memories came to mind, all related with the place communications have in our daily lives.

I remember my grandparents loved to hear the radio, their favorite transmissions were tango orchestras and soccer, yes, two genuine Argentine passions. I also remember them listening to the radio while drinking mate.

I grew up hearing tango but, can you imagine growing up listening to the voice of a journalist describing soccer moves? Can you imagine celebrating a goal you hadn't even seen? Yes, taxi drivers and porters still listen to soccer on the radio and celebrate goals they only hear about. But back then, it took place everywhere in Buenos Aires. In every home, before TV became popular. You can't imagine the enthusiasm around soccer.

The first TV channel appeared in 1951 (first radio station, in 1935), but TV really became available during the seventies and turned to colors in 1980. There were 5 channels. The signal would come on at 12 pm and go off around 10pm to 12am. When one of my grandparents heard there was such a thing as color TV, he decided to convert his TV to color by putting a piece of colored paper on top of the screen and carefully taping the sides, isn't that funny?

TV was not accessible to everyone in Argentina so some of the people that did not have one would go to their neighbors’ house to watch a given show or soccer match.

Carretero's book says: "If the radio introduced the public word in the intimacy of houses, TV boosted communication by incorporating image. That way, dramas, tango shows, news and even the weather forecast acquired a different and fascinating perspective".

Margarita de la Sota says in an article in Lyra Magazine from 1961 called: "A Memorable Cycle of Argentine TV": "A friend of ours, that is a writer, used to say that the only purpose TV served was to shut your wife up. Inside the magical atmosphere of the TV screen, at last, the equilibrium of marriage was established... the hypnotic virtue of television provided other pleasures less intimate and more productive".

These days, computers, tablets and phones are the radios of Argentina's 1930's and fiber-optics the antennas but they are also the books (have you ever heard of phone novels?) , the TV's, the movies, the games for kids, the music. And, as books become antiquities soon to belong in a Museum along with walkmans, vinyl records, wrist watches, and TV's, I cannot help but wonder what other surprises will the future have in store for us and how we will contribute to shape it.

Post by: Vale Mendez Cañas
Photo: Curiocity Villas

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