How far back in time would we have to travel to find our families gathered around a fire? It would have been a near daily occurrence. fire had warmth, light and was basically the stove. As education became more common, male family members may have taken turns reading from the bible or borrowed novels by fire light. Eventually even the girls were allowed to go to school, and they participated. It’s not too hard to visualize this picture. If we haven’t been camping, we’ve certainly seen examples of early living in movies. Versions of this family gathering played for centuries around the globe and it certainly still exists today in much of the third world.
Urban homes began installing electricity in the early decades of the 20th century. The first radio broadcast was in 1920 and by 1922 there were 600 radio stations. While probably in the same room as the fire place (central heating didn’t become a common goal until the 1930’s), the radio caused the family to lean in together to hear the static, words, and music. The radio had replaced the fire as the central gathering point.
In the 1950’s the television replaced the hulking radios in the family room. We moved as a group from the dinner table to watch Gunsmoke. Whether we really liked the programming or not was irrelevent. The TV was the new fire and like the vacuum tube radio technology before it, you could even say it glowed…
Whether the family gatherings were mandatory or not could be argued, but it was probably punishment to be banished from them.
Today, If your family consistently eats together around a table, I congratulate you. If you move en masse to a family room, I envy you. If by chance you then regularly carry on meaningful conversations, I gape at you.
Everyone has their own TV; we can access the world from any room in our home via wireless link; and if you’re reading this, I guarantee that you have used electronics to communicate with another member of your household who was somewhere in the same living space.
Here’s the undeniable irony; We are more connected now than ever before. Despite the weirdness of texting someone in the same house, it doesn’t matter whether they’re even in the same state. It feels the same… like they’re under your roof. This is why anybody can do business with anybody. We’re all just settin’ ’round a bigger fire.