We threw our TVs away on 1-1-2009 how about you?

“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 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 it was like according to:

Lynne from Sheffield

I was born in 1960 in South Yorkshire in England and was about 5 years old when TV appeared in my life. My parents lived with my paternal family and so my earliest memories are about trailing after older children who took me everywhere. The playgrounds were the streets immediately outside the front door and the fields on which there are now private housing estates. Though TV appeared when I was 5 having it in the house was more of a status symbol that something I used regularly, that did not come until we moved into one of the prestigious private housing estates and there was no-one to play with as they were all glued to their status symbols. This happened when i was about 12.Until then long summer nights and quite a lot of the winter ones too if we could get out, were spent playing street wide communal games with all the other kids on the street. kick can,football, british bull dog, hide and seek, statues, stealing bonfire wood from each others gardens in November or playing war games (anyone under 8 was german whether they liked it or not), making dens and lying in said fields just watching clouds drift past, making daisy chains, throwing sticks in streams, watching bugs drag stuff around the fields, endless boredom which had to be endured but if you went home your mother would find something for you to do so you just lay there. Hours and hours of it. It wasn’t all idyllic by any means, we fought and fell out with each other like all children but there was a sense of being able to roam that we all knew staying inside to watch TV was purgatory until we could get outside again and meet up with other kids.

TV was a way our parents controlled us, punishment was ironically having to stay inside and watch TV on a sunny day and not be allowed out to play.

When I got to university in 1979 the first thing I did was get rid of the TV. I didn’t have one until 2000 when my mother bought my then 8 year old son one for his birthday. She couldn’t bear him not having one. Overnightthis kid who made stuff everywhere turned into a zombie and the TV was back. After she’d bought him 3 TV’s I gave up trying as he was hooked by the so I hat to outwait it and her. However, when he went to university in September 2010,the TV was the first thing to go. Bliss, just like old times.

Lynne from Sheffield

and horsewhippings, anonymous from anytown

I grew up having a TV set. I watched it because I was mostly alone. My brothers and sisters are much older than me and didn´t want to play with a little child.Also, my parents left me alone to play with myself, and TV was the easiest thing around.
But at family vacations we went to grandma´s house up in the hills, where there was no tv. There adults, young adults and children were always together. We did all kinds of things. We gathered wood, cooked, walked by the lake, fed the chickens… I spent time with everyone and it was great. I think the best thing of not having a TV around so much is that you get to know the people near you.
Children like to participate in normal adult activities, even if it is “cleaning the house”, as long as there is a lively conversation going on and the child can really make a connection.
I am trying to talk to people around me about giving up tv, but they are very resistant. The most resistant are those with kids. They say things like: “I dont know what to do with them when I have housework or cooking to do… whem I have to wash my car or mow the lawn.” Well, get your kids involved. Let them help you. Don´t just dump the chores on them and go away. Children love their parents and want to be with them and do things together. They don´t mind washing your car or stirring a pot… they just want to do it together.metropolis girl

The best years of my life occured when I first started college. I was a full time student with a heavy courseload and a part time job. I spent my time in philosophical debates with my peers, playing the wonderful grand piano in the dormitory commons, and hoofin’ it to and from class, clubs, and the tennis court. I don’t remember having a TV in college, or seeing one around. I am grateful for that!anonymous from anytown

After my siblings and I hit puberty, my family spent most of its time in front of the television set.
Prior to that era, most of my memories from childhood include riding my bike (and doing stunts), hanging with neighbor friends, swimming all summer long, impromptu baseball games with kids we just met, inventions, building, exploring nature, laughing and making each other laugh. We played Spy, Can’t Touch the Ground, and other games requiring intense creativity, agility, and espionage.
Then something just turned off inside of us. Video games became a daily escape immediately after school. How many hours did it take to master Mario Brothers? A better question would be how many weeks.The TV years sucked. I think at some point things got so stressful that my parents needed an escape. We were “forced” to participate with the family – which meant “come watch TV with us.” They didn’t have the coping skills they needed to deal with everything going on. You know what? They still don’t.I believe a big part of them not “moving on” with life is because they are still glued to the set.I hate TV and I hate that my wife wastes 3 hours every evening glued to it.I feel ignored, distracted and annoyed. Something has to change. I will definately not being renewing our network subscription.

Wendy from Wichita

The ability to make small talk and learn interesting things about other people. I remember when I was very young I used to go to my Greatgrandmas’ house. She had an old television. Really old. It was a large wooden cabinet with a very small round screen. Black and white of course. The cabinet was much taller than it was wide.It still worked and the sound was crackly. I was always fascinated by that set.This would’ve been in the late 60s’. I couldn’t tell you how old that t.v. was. It looked like a museum piece. The house there had a large concrete porch which was nice and cool on hot summer nights. Just sit out there and listen to the evening,crickets,tree frogs and the like. There was a railroad salvage place down the road and we would walk down there a lot to see what the world had dropped there. She gardened and tended to her place with little to no t.v. just fine.

Thank You.

Amber in Indiana now

I grew up in a very small town in the Ozarks thru the 60s’ and 70s’. In that part of the country at that time there was only two t.v. stations at first. They broadcast in black and white. Then along came our third station KOLR out of Springfield, Mo. I think. It was the first color station I saw regularly. The t.v.( or idiot box as my mom called it) was only on for one hour during the day for my moms’ soap opera watching pleasure. (Days of Our Lives)The news would be on come evening and it was mostly actually news. It seems there was less sensationalism. I remember seeing bodies in coffins coming off planes thru Viet Nam. They don’t show you that now.My parents were always telling me that “they” tell lies and distored truths. To watch “them” carefully and to believe it when you see it. To always question those on the “boob tube”. What did I do instead of t.v.? Wow. O.K. There was always work to be done somewhere around the place. Chores and such.I rode horses for chores and pleasure. With and without friends. Chores on horseback? Go get a BIG bag of Black Walnuts down by the lake, go get a bag of persimmons (you had to stand on the horses back to reach the fruit), go swimming with friends and we spent a lot I mean a lot of time out in the woods. The deep woods.My dad was quite the organic gardener before it was the in thing. Long before. I was taught to conserve and reuse everything. You go fishing and eat the fish yes but you also bury the rest of it in next years garden spot for fertilizer. You take used barn hay and let it soak in 55 gal. drums until after it “cooks” and use it for fertilizer. We grew grapes,strawberries ( a lot, enough for freezing), pears,cherries,apples,peaches, various veggies too. We made home made ice cream and watched stars in the summer. Chased lightening bugs.Watched the grass grow.Oh yeah and we raed actual books. Ones that didn’t require a battery or charge of some sort. Even under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime.( o.k. that requirs a battery) Camping,fishing,hunting,seeing nature in ways a lot of people have never done. Sad for them. As we got older we ran backroads in muscle cars and went dirtbiking in the wilds. We would take our horses down to the tourist beach and make a little side money entertaining the tourists. Entreprenurial we were.I remember some t.v. stuff. The Jackson Five Show, Sonny and Cher, Bobby Goldsboro, Dean Martin.It was always clear in that house that the idiot box was just that. It was entertainment and for news. It would sit and not be on for days sometimes. Thank you for reminding me of these things. There are 5 televisions in this house. I am ashamed. I still grow my own garden although not on my folks’ scale, I tend to my own yard and outside stuff. Still do my chores mostly. LOL I get up in the morning now and make a pot of coffee and turn on world news. It always upsets me. I WILL limit myself to two days a week from here on. Again Thank All Ya’ll, Amber out.

anonymous from anytown

I am 28 and grew up without TV. My sisters and I played OUTSIDE as often as possible. We read books, played dolls, made houses for our dolls and stables for our horses out of boxes. We played board games, climbed trees and were pioneer women and Egyptians by the Nile. We used our imaginations to be anyone, anywhere we chose. Thank you Mom and Dad!

Miss Uncool

People who actually want to meet face to face as opposed to watching tv or being on facebook. I’m young and yet I wish I’d been born years ago because it’s so hard to make and get hold of any real friends who will have ‘time’ to meet up.

anonymous from anytown

Im a 22 year old mother of 2. I grew up without a tv and found plenty to do with my time. Mostly playing outdoors. My children were watching tv before I found this website and im glad I did. From the time I read the infomation on this website a week ago we have been cold turkey NO TV. I have noticed my 18 month old son to be more responsive and even saying a couple of new words. I don’t miss it and he seems to be better off without it.anonymous from anytownMy experience isn’t as “wholesome” as the others on here, but I can say that I grew up without TV mostly, and that I had internet but only used it at night when everyone else went home.

I didn’t have TV, cable, and my internet access was shoddy (and I’m currently 19 btw) But I did a bunch of things–I spent alot of time listening to music, I would read, I would play my flute, I would play chess, I would chisel wood on my front step to make things–basically, I found entertainment in the simplest of ways.

I hung out with the neighborhood kids alot, who’d also become my best friends; we would go to the teen center and play pool, go “aztec fishing” (with a spear), go to the gym to work out, smoke weed, drink and have good conversation, and walk around to people’s houses to visit friends. we’d do that almost all day during the summer. I was never bored, I was never lonely, and I was actually pretty happy.

Mr. Proudhon

I hate t.v. I was born in 1982, so TV has always been around me. Even though I am not that old, most of my memories were from all of the neighborhood kids playing sports. Tag football, baseball, anything. We could not throw our backpacks inside fast enough so that we could take off on our bikes to go play. Now, my wife and I have been without a TV for almost 2 years now every since our daughter was born and we love it. We rent movies from netflix and watch them after our daughter has gone to bed. We are very stressed though because it seems like we are up against the world. Both my wife and I’s families are heavy TV watchers and give us a hard time about not having the TV on when we visit. It is like pulling teeth. Both this subject and not feeding our daughter junk has driven a wedge in our relationships with our families since she was born. I could say so much about the positive aspects of getting rid of TV but there simply isn’t enough space. People now are drones who waste hours in front of a TV to watch shows they have to see, only to not remember what the show was about a week later. It’s crazy. Instead of watching TV when we are together, my wife, kid, and I role around and play, take stroller rides,read books, and just learn. We walk around the house and teach her what random items are like an iron or the blinds to windows. And what a suprise, at 16 months, she knows so much. Her favorite things in the world are books, as opposed to my cousin’s 3 year old who only wants TV show dvd’s and carries around doritoes bags stuffing himself. Oh.. I need to stop. If there is anybody reading this that is on the fence, dump the TV, you won’t regret it.Thanks..Mike, age 28, from Georgia

For several years in my early 20’s that I lived without TV with the exception of occasional movies. At that time I now realize I was more creative and had a lot of time on my hands to do what I needed to. My attention span could last longer too. Now that I am married and watch TV a lot with my husband in the evenings I am very forgetful and unmotivated. I want to spend time with him but he doesn’t want to turn off the television and as long as its on it draws my attention too.

Brandi age 30 from TX

My great-grandfather was born in the 1880’s in Southampton in England. He joined the British army as a teenager and was sent to Canada, where he got married and settled down. Unfortunately, WW I broke out the next year and he was called up and returned to Europe. According to family myth, he was gassed at Ypres but returned to the front after a short convalescence.
After the war, he returned to Canada, started a family with his wife who faithfully awaited for his return, and made his living as an egg and chicken farmer and occasional lumberjack and ice seller. He died in 1977 when he was in his 90’s.
I remember visiting him during the 1970’s when I was a small child. His house stood out in my mind because it was the only home I had been to that didn’t have a TV.
The furniture in the living room was arranged in such a way to facilitate conversation and social interaction.
There was a German cuckoo clock on the wall which was the loudest thing inside his house–he lived on a farm very far from any road.
He drank rum or scotch straight or with water and only in moderation.
He always smoked a pipe.
The played the accordion and sang for entertainment. I was told he could play the bagpipes but never saw it myself.
He was the last person in the family who could play ANY musical instrument.
He planted a garden every year and was an organic gardener before the word was invented: he forbade the use of chemical fertilizers etc. I remember spending summer with my grandparents in the garden when I was a kid weeding by hand.
We also could eat the carrots pulled straight from the ground and washed with water from the hand pump in the house.
When he died, he got sick on a Friday and passed away on Sunday at home. Otherwise, he never got ill.
Compared to my grandparents, parents and even my generation (I was born in 1968), it was an enviable life, full, robust , healthy and happy and completely TV-free.

Tony B. Halifax, N.S., Canada

My family watches television constantly. The tv is always on regardless of whether or not anyone is in the room. As an adult, I have come to realize that tv is a time and energy sucker. It sucks the life out of your day. I cancelled cable and rent Netflix when I want to see a movie. I have so much more time, am healthier and get involved in real life.

Laura from N.Greenbush, NY

I was born in 1956. Untill I was about ten we had a black and white tv. I was not allowed to watch very much tv nor did I even want to. I was outside every day playing with my friends. Learning to ride my bike. Making huts in the woods and pretending the back of my fathers truck was a boat. Our little minds were always spinning on new ways to have fun and/or get into trouble. Like stealing my mothers lipstick when we decided it would be a great idea to play war and that bright red would make perfect blood. oh what trouble I was in then lol. Red lipstick does not come out of clothes.
I feel sad for todays kids, they have really missed out. People are too afraid to let their kids play outside, in some places its just not possible. TV has robbed us of our creativity and imaginations. I believe it to be the all time brain drain. Instead of doing we just sit and watch others do. Then we wonder why depression is at an all time high, frighteningly so among children. Exercise, fresh air and sunshine are the cures for that if you ask me.

Carol from Mass. USA

I was born in 1972, so I didn’t grow up without TV. But, what do I remember about my childhood? My most vivid memories are of riding my bike around the neighborhood. Trying to fly a kite while riding my bike (didn’t work out so well). Jumping little ramps with my bike. Walking down to a small wooded area outside my school. Soccer, basketball, and football practice, and games.

As for TV, I remember the Brady Bunch, Happy Days, and Dukes of Hazard. I don’t think I could tell you any of the actual stories on the shows though. I wonder what more I would have done if there were no TV?

David, St. Clair Shores, Michigan

we had a power cut in london a few months ago for 3 days,,after the first day everybody was out knocking on peoples houses an making sure there nabours were ok,,making sure the elderly had war soup an bread after the 2nd day everybody was talking again an said how funny this was if we had no electric we would al be wrapped up in our houses,,but the truth is it would be the tv they would be wrapped up in,,an everybosy caught up with each other an belive it or not when the power came on nobody cam out again,,
what my point here is switching off tv for a week is nuthing we should bann tv completly,,we ae humands for gods sake people what has become of our minds,,weve lost our heads in tv an dont look for anything as to solve this problem but as to turn the channel over????SO I AM SAYING RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW ,,I ,,,,,ME ,,AM ALIVE AN IM NOT GONNA SIT THERE AN WATHC MY LIFE DIE WATCHING TV,,,,ENGLAND NORTH LONDON

insted of driving parking walking round the super markets queing then cooking or microwaving the food..
walk into your garden dig out the greens an what els you fancy wash them an cook from home from the garden,,quicker an easier then supermarket shopping,,
get back to our lifes..tasting food trying new foods knowing how to do things like cook an grow food from home.. make must know befor your 10 years of age..
an no food with bright colours an barcodes on it..

6 responses

  1. Swinging from a tire on a hemp rope, bicycle rides along rural paths, being taught how to use tools to make or fix things, making ice cream in a hand-cranked ice cream maker, sitting on porches talking, more importantly, listening. Radio. Reading,reading reading. Magazines had projects that taught how to make things. Gardening. Very little was bought, including us.

  2. TV went out the door 2010! Brain began functioning.

  3. I haven’t watched TV since 1996. Gave my set to my ex.

    1. Well done you! We got rid of our sets 1-1-2009 .. never looked back.

  4. Got rid of mine completely about 4 years ago now, although I’ve not had a tv for quite a few periods in my life (after being addicted with tv used as a babysitter for me). At first I didn’t have one as couldn’t afford one, and later when I thought it was taking over family life I got rid of it twice; the kids went mad, but looking back now, they say that they enjoyed the times we spent together doing things rather than watching.

    After being forced to give up work, I realised tv was taking me over again, especially after having satellite, so got rid of it for good.

    Initially I was writing or painting/sculpting, but the pain became to bad. I’m very ill now and so I’m not always able to do creative things or even read, so I do watch documentaries on youtube in the early evening, and the odd drama/film on the catch up services later in a week. I tend to read interesting blogs during the day.

    That said, I’m considering giving up watching dramas/films almost completely because of the propaganda of one sort or another. I had already cut out anything overtly violent/sexual, but it seems nowadays that all things must have some kind of ‘shock tactics’ in dramas/films to make them attractive to people, so things that I’ve started watching that seemed ok, later down the line ended up making me feel compromised.

    One thing that really upsets me is when healthy people tell me that they are ‘bored’. If I was still healthy I’d be: horse-riding or cycling out every weekend; in my garden most of the time, summer or winter; was going to start going on walking holidays before I became ill, and even if you’re broke, you can still go walking around my area or camp for free; learning a new language at night school; continuing to play musical instruments/be in a band; learning anything new at all; continuing to write my book/paint/sculpt; continuing in education with a masters; going to real-ale festivals around the country; having ‘get togethers’; volunteering in a soup kitchen/charity shop/hostel; learning new cookery skills etc, etc. What do you need tv for when you can do all of these things, even things that don’t take much money?

    I don’t understand people.

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