The Television Time Machine

Lets rewind to the early 1960’s.

You’re walking through the streets of Uruguay, you pass the shops and catch a glimpse at a box filled with moving pictures.

You stop.


Pictures like these were only seen inside the movie theatres.


This was the first time that my Abuela (grandmother), Vinda Viana had laid eyes on a television.

Televisions were first introduced to Uruguay in 1956, roughly 20 years after it had been introduced to the United Stated and the United Kingdom. The TV’s were heavy, with a thick screen and only played in a black and white resolution. Not many people had Television’s when they first came to Uruguay, it was a luxury that mainly people in the capital city of Montevideo had.

Growing up in Castillos— a small town north of Uruguay– Vinda and her 7 siblings grew up in a small home in a small neighbourhood where TV’s were non-existent. Her family did not own a TV and neither did any of her friends. She remembers working only to survive, because that’s how life was in Uruguay. During the 1950s and 1960s, Uruguay went through economic turmoil and many people didn’t have the left over money to spend on luxurious entertainment boxes.

After the war, many countries had a disposable income. This new income enhanced suburban life and caused the commercial TV market to expand. In Uruguay, everyone wanted a TV, they were all talking about it but it wasn’t affordable.

Vinda remembers a time where watching television was a neighbourhood attraction.

If one person in the neighbourhood had a TV, everyone would flock to a persons house to watch TV together” she said.

This created a new sense of community and hospitality.

‘Family Watching Television,’ shared by Evert F Baumgardener, c.1958 – credit: National Archived and Records Administration in Public Domain

Vinda remembers watching TV in her now husband’s home at 5pm when television shows started playing. They would all sit around the TV and watch shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E together as a family.

After migrating to Australia in 1971, the first thing that my Abuelo’s (my grandparents) did was by a TV.  They had come to Australia in hopes for a better life, for themselves and for their children. Buying a TV, once they had jobs, was a symbol of this new life, a symbol of change and new beginnings in a prosperous land.

Psychologist Sam Gosling looks at the space around an object and how it is used. In relation to the television, “the location shows its psychological function“(2015). My grandparents had entered a new space, one that was a symbol for all that they had ever wanted in life. For my abuela–who had never owned a TV–the importance of buying a TV to place in their new home demonstrates its psychological function highlighting the beginning of their new life.

It was this point in the conversation that Abuela seemed at ease as she remembered the gratifying feeling of buying her first TV.  She sighed, smiled and her eyes glimmered; she was going back in time.

Janelle Wilson states, that nostalgia “is more a longing to recapture a mood or spirit of a particular time.” (2005, pp.26)

But I wonder if this state of nostalgia isn’t just a form of recapturing memories but re-living the moment where the individual is in two places at once. Is this possible within one psychological frame of mind?

This conversation with my Abuela really opened my eyes to what a TV really means. To me, it’s just a form of entertainment that sits idle in the living room. For my Abuela, the TV means status and new beginnings. Maybe this is the reason that my Abuelo (Grandfather) still watches black and white Western movies. I think it reminds him of a time where he could finally have everything he had ever wished for.

Today, my grandparents watch a lot of TV, but the times have changed.

When I asked my Abuela if she liked watching the old Western movies with my Abuelo she quickly said–in her broken English–“NO, I don’t know why he watching it.” This made me laugh as I remembered all the times I would walk into the lounge room to see him watching old black and white Western movies with obnoxiously loud gunshots and crazy camera angles. I would mock him and say, “ahhhh not this again” or “Abuellooo, what are you watching it”–mocking his accent and broken English.

Ross Martin and Robert Conrad – credit: CCO 1.O

But what’s changed between then and now?

Now, Abuela doesn’t stay in the same room as Abuelo and watch his crazy TV shows, she goes off on her own and does something else. When she first started to watch TV with Abuelo and his family in Uruguay, it was a ritual that everyone would sit around the TV and watch the only channel available–channel 10–from 5pm until all hours of the night. It was tradition.

Now the television is kind of old news, but for some, like my grandparents, it holds a special kind of meaning.



Gosling S 2015, What our personal spaces cant hide, [VIDEO] University of Texas

Wilson J 2005, Nostalgia: Sanctuary of Meaning, Bucknell University Press, Pennsylvania, pp.26

Viana, V 2016, personal communication, 7 August





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