norwegian tv set

I chose this very retro television set more as a representative example than a historical object with a unique history unto itself. This TV was manufactured in 1962 by the Tandberg company, which is now Ericcson, and was created in Norway. The obvious early-60s look and color epitomizes the “mid-century” look of interior decor. In the U.S. at least, you’d expect to switch on this set and see The Honeymooners or Leave it to Beaver. In Norway in the early 1960s you would more likely watch news or political programs, and some local reproductions of American gameshows like The $64,000 Question. Norway did not even introduce TV broadcasts until 1954, and until the 1960s it remained very much experimental.

TV, of course, has had a major impact on world history. The device was invented in the United States in 1928, and TV programming did exist in the 1930s–in 1939, for example, you could browse the New York Times and find listings of television shows, but almost nobody owned a set before World War II. (In the U.S., TV broadcasting took a hiatus entirely during the war). After the conflict, however, it was different. TVs were one of the most sought-after consumer goods and status symbols in affluent postwar society, and much of the rest of the world began to want the medium too. By the early 1960s both the technology and the economic conditions necessary for the rise of TV had seeped into most countries in Western Europe, Norway among the last.

Television sometimes reflected reality–such as the grim coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963–but more often reflected the ideal of what people wanted society to be like. That’s why the nuclear family sitcom was a staple of TV, not just in the U.S., but all over the Western world, from the 1940s and into the 1990s. (Modern shows like The Simpsons are parodies of this paradigm, but still depend on them heavily). Much of the social turmoil of the 1960s was a critique of these ideals, but TV continued its dominance. Indeed, the stranglehold of television broadcasting on cultural mores didn’t really loosen until the 1990s, to be replaced–or at least challenged–by the Internet, but clearly even that process is only in its infancy and some may argue it’s too early to tell. Still, it’s undeniable the effect TV has had on history since 1945.

This set is in the Norsk (Norwegian) Folkemuseum in Oslo. I don’t recall specifically seeing it when I was there, but I probably did.

The image of the Tandberg TV set is by Wikimedia Commons use Bjoertvert and is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.