The first profoundly modern invention (before the computer) has to be considered the television. Even in its most basic form it captivated audiences around the world. Movie theatres were a big deal, but these screens were in your own home! But with few channels, and in black and white, what was positively spellbinding then would seem beyond dull now. This is not only because of improvements in television's technology but because of the quality and increased programming.
Television used to provide a limited amount of shows, and the TV accessed these by its use of "rabbit ears" antennas. The content was extremely more conservative: characters on sitcoms didn't sleep on the same bed, utter the word "pregnant", and certainly there was no swearing. There were way fewer networks issuing a vastly smaller selection of programming as cable television didn't exist. As a result, advertisements had very different implications than they have today. Basically, there were fewer spots to plug their products. Also, because ratings were so much lower than today there wasn't the same emphasis on advertising. As a result, television could appeal to a more intelligent viewer, and it in no way resembled the reality shows and gossipy news programs of today.
People still mostly relied on newspapers to learn about what was happening in the world. But things changed when the Presidential debates was on air-it was clear that people who heard the debates on the radio favoured the words of Nixon, but those who saw the composed, handsome Kennedy favoured him. TV executives and advertisers around the world began understanding the effect of TV and its programming started to change drastically.
TV has become the way in which people around the world see the world. Thanks to satellite TV and digital cable news and television programs can be accessed around the world. The amount of channels has literally jumped from several to several hundred.
A good way to consider just how much this has changed is to remind ourselves of how we used to find out what was on. At first we got off the couch and flipped the channels until we found something we liked, since there were so few channels this was easy. As more channels became available we had TV guides sent to our homes, and a channel was dedicated to scrolling through what was on TV at that moment. Now, we interact with digital guides that we scroll through on remote controls to best locate what we want. There are too many channels to have a print out sent to our homes.
The quality of programs has sunk drastically because of the diversity offered. Reality television doesn't rely on writers or actors, and an unimaginable quantity of sports is broadcast-some, like darts and poker, aren't even really sports. But with so many channels offered it's possible to cater to all tastes.
Hundreds of millions of people have televisions in their homes, and the average household in America spends over a quarter of the day before a TV. There's no doubt that the vastly smaller number of programs there were offered at first couldn't possibly hold so many peoples attention for so long!