Generation 499, 1975-2000. The decline of the gatekeepers?

Back we go, to the generation that came to maturity between 1975 and 2000, the last quarter of the twentieth century.

By the time we get to the start of this period, there is no internet, no mobile phones, no digital photography, no satellite television, and no CCTV. In the UK a woman could be refused a job on the basis of her gender, and be paid less than a man if she was employed.

Lack of internet means that accessing information is slower, more difficult, more expensive and mediated by gatekeepers. I have to order a book from the library or a bookshop. There are four TV channels in the UK, and although I can record a programme if I want to, the choice is determined by the TV companies.

I get news from the newspapers, another set of gatekeepers. They describe a world that is polarised into the communist and capitalist blocs, and demonise the one they are not in. Information can be suppressed or manipulated by rich or powerful individuals who lean on the relevant gatekeepers. The Berlin Wall came down in the middle of this period, after some intrepid East Germans got into their Trabants and made a long journey to the other bloc. The wall itself became an irrelevance.

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A young man stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The moment was photographed by a journalist and sent around the capitalist bloc.

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Some of the gatekeepers believed themselves to be benevolent guardians and keepers of standards. Even now, if you watch terrestrial TV you can be sure of a certain standard and when output is deemed to fall below it the complaints are loud. Compare that with the anarchy of digital TV output.

Music is played on CDs at the end of the period, LP’s or cassettes at the beginning. What I can listen to is determined by the music companies. Photographs are taken on reels of film, usually 24 or 36 exposures. They are sent away to be developed, and that is expensive.

There is no CCTV, so when I go to the city centre or supermarket my movements are not recorded by ranks of hidden cameras as they are now. No speed cameras catch me when I drive over the speed limit. Lack of mobile phones means that when I go into the wild I am alone in a way that is almost unimaginable now. It also means that if I get stuck there is no way to let anyone know where I am. There are public phone boxes on the street in the towns.

In this period there are different freedoms from those of generation 500. A student in the UK could get a maintenance grant rather than a loan as is the case now. In the world of work, a person could expect to be in one job for a long time, and to retire with a company pension. At the start of the period air travel was expensive and so for the few who could afford it. On main roads a hitch-hiker with their thumb out asking for a lift was a common sight. I rarely see a hitch-hiker now.

This is also the period in which the authority and accountability of the gatekeepers begins to be questioned. At the start of the period a medical doctor has almost demigod status. By the end their pronouncements can be challenged. The questioning of the behaviour of some people in the church also begins here, to be taken up much more by the following generation.

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