Posted by: nickgerlich | October 23, 2007

A Very Good Year

It was 1981. I had just graduated from college in early June. But that was only the beginning, for while the world couldn’t have cared less about my academic achievement, the summer of our long-lasting cultural contentment was about to birth two icons that, to this day, continue to influence all of us.MTV
At precisely midnight on 1st August that year, MTV began broadcasting. The first video aired on this upstart station was by The Buggles, and their prophetic “Video Killed the Radio Star” (which, ironically, had been released two years prior). The first five VJs (Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and the late J. J. Jackson) became household words.

And then, 11 days later, IBM rocked the universe with the release of the PC. Although there had been earlier attempts to market personal computers, the IBM model became the industry standard and thus the benchmark for all who followed. We likely would not be having this discussion here were it not for the role IBM played.

MTV and IBM could not be farther apart in terms of their cultural contributions, but no one can doubt they have both played huge roles in how our society has evolved.

How’s that? MTV has impacted society?

MTV raised the bar in many regards, by requiring the music industry to add a visual element to songs. These short films, essentially, became marketing tools for the artist. Never mind that the lyp-syncing was often horrible and painfully obvious. The fast-moving action brought attention to the artist and had viewers riveted to their seats.

But it can also be argued that MTV helped usher in the hyper-drive culture we now accept as normal. I have often stated that the seemingly random sub-plots in each Seinfeld episode in the 1990s played to our collective ADD. Although the sub-plots invariably came together around one central theme of nothingness, they changed so fast you didn’t dare step out to the bathroom lest you miss something important. The slap-happy bass line served to keep you bouncing along with the script from one character’s pratfalls to another’s.

While MTV has strayed from its original concept (they may wish to consider removing the “M” from their name), their impact has been profound on both the music industry and society. And IBM, too, has ventured away from its foray into personal computing, having sold that division to a Chinese company. It now focuses instead on business applications (its original focus). But where would we be today without our computers?

Yes, 1981 was a very good year. Now if I can just figure out how to leave my mark on culture. Anyone care to invest in a blog?

Dr “26 Years and Counting” Gerlich

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