Early next week Michael Branson Smith (MBS) will be coming down to Mary Washington to help us get 1985 network TV broadcasting in the Console Living Room Exhibit. That’s right, we’ll actually be creating at least one—and hopefully more—channels that are programmed with shows and commercials from 1985 that will actually be transmitted to the TVs in the exhibit. Awesome, right? MBS has been testing it out, and he provides a quick demo of the setup in the following video:
MBS has a Rasberry Pi that will automatically download YouTube videos from a playlist and then via the video out will transmit them through the HLLY TV Transmitter (I have my very own en route as I write this) on a specified channel that will then be picked up by the TV antenna. And seeing and hearing the Super Friends play through that television in the video is a blast from the past that is just the beginning of the madness. MBS has started a Saturday morning cartoon playlist from the era.
Watching the quick demo and perusing the playlist, I remembered a post from back in January 2008 in which I marveled about the fact that Wikipedia has a “comprehensive list of U.S. network TV schedules.” Coincidentally, the screenshot I took for that post featured the primetime network lineup for the 1984/1985 season. Could it have been a bava premonition of what was to come? More than seven years later I am seriously toying with the idea of trying to program an entire day—or week? month? year?—of network TV for the exhibit. It would take about four or five more TV transmitters, some serious research, and a ton of YouTube downloading (amongst other media resources) to do this, but it would be the next level of media studies for the console living room.
Additionally, I think such a setup could help make the argument that this exhibit is not just a nostalgic sideshow or cultural curiosity, but an example of what’s possible in terms of embedding a cultural media moment in an academic community for an extended period of time as an object of ongoing study. Such an approach would be a pretty compelling and unique way to study the history of media convergence, and much of it is made possible by the very changing nature of technology that is the object of study. That’s some high level shit right there.