In the late eighties I took delivery of a Sky satellite system. At the time I was selling Timeshare Ownership’s to unsuspecting customers in Leicester Square and I was taking home around two thousand pounds a week in commission. It was a phenomenal amount of money to earn in those days but the SKY system was a phenomenal amount of money to buy so, in my head, it balanced out.
My then girlfriend, Wanda, came over and we sat down that first night on the sofa and we ate pizza and drank wine while we surfed the channels in wide-eyed amazement. Before that night we only had four channels. Now we had at least 40 channels to choose from. The world was our lobster and life would never be the same again. Eventually we pitched up at the WWF. Wrestlers like Randy Savage, The Bushwackers, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were battling it out nightly. It was a lot different from when I was a kid and World of Sport was showing Mick McManus, Jacky Pallo and Catweazle. “Have a good week, till next week”.
We switched to the movie channel and watched films that were only just out on video (DVD’s hadn’t arrived yet). The sports channels were amazing. Not only live Football and golf but obscure stuff from around the world like Ladies Beach Volleyball (my favourite) and synchronised drowning. I could get up in the middle of the night and watch as Mike Tyson pulverised someone live. I saw Spinks go crashing through the ropes. Marvellous. It didn’t get much better than that.
As we watched TV it occurred to me that this was all just too good to last. It was too perfect. I wondered how long it would be before there was competition to SKY or if they would start charging for the things that were included at the moment, like movies and sports. Would someone have a monopoly on all this or would it be a fight, a war waged between predators in a ‘my company is bigger than yours’ kind of punch up that had corporations slamming their dicks on the table.
Where would the competition come from? Another satellite company? Surely it would take a long while before anyone could offer an alternative to this? I looked at my mobile phone. It was called a portable phone in those days but it was like carrying around one of those big plastic petrol tanks that people keep in the boot of their car. It looked like the sort of thing you would use on army manoeuvres when you were trying to radio in to HQ to give them your bearings. I had another mobile phone, which was light grey and looked like a housebrick with an aerial. It weighed a ton but Gordon Gekko had one in Wall Street so that was good enough for me.
As I looked at the phones I can remember thinking to myself that those were the future. Being contactable anywhere or making a call while on the move was what people would want. I had no idea then that within twenty years people would have panic attacks if a small object that played music, took pictures, surfed the internet, woke you up in the morning, recorded messages, sent texts and made phone calls was not in their hand, pocket or bag or clamped to their ear 24/7. The telephone side of things tends to be overlooked now but that was its original premise. Now they do everything but make a cup of tea and the phone call is an afterthought. It’s all text and pictures, web and MP3. Technology was going through another change.
Things were a lot different in the nineteen-fifties. It was a polite, respectful society, so I am told. People were grateful for what they had and many didn’t have much. It was all national service and manners. A trip to the coast and wearing a tie for dinner. That all changed. The world rolled into the sixties and, boom. Flower power, the summer of love, man went into space, Sean Connery changed cinema forever by putting a dinner jacket on and the Beatles were bigger than...well, they were big. And then, man landed on the moon. Somehow, technology had received a kick up the arse. We had gone from one channel of TV to three, colour footage from the moon and Hendrix played his guitar behind his head and then set light to it.
Things remained steady until the mid seventies when suddenly there was a space station, more and more people had telephones, they had credit cards and cash machines had arrived. Groups like Yes and Pink Floyd got bigger and toured with so much equipment they could invade a small country. Cassette tape decks allowed you to record your records. The world had received another technological kick up the arse. Where had that come from?
The eighties arrived. Punk was over, people were going back and forth into space again on the Shuttle and men were dressing like women and wearing make-up. The bands got smaller but shoulders got bigger and colours got brighter. Nearly every TV was a colour set too. The yuppie arrived with ‘loadsamoney’ and cash was king. Then we had Walkmans, Microwaves and mini cassette recorders. CD’s began replacing vinyl, Portable Phones were introduced and Satellite TV had arrived in my lounge. We had received another kick up the arse on the technology front. By the late eighties, I was sitting watching TV wondering where it would all end. It didn’t and it hasn’t. Technology has been kicked up the arse on a more regular basis.
I had no idea that the competition to satellite would come out of the ground. I had no idea that 200 channels would be commonplace. Nor did I think that BT would have competition for its phone lines. I had no idea I would be a part of all that.
This is what happened...