From Barney W. Greinke in Berkeley:
“When people point out the great technological accomplishments of the 20th century, they usually think it’s the big things that are the most important ones. The atom bomb, jet airplanes, the Salk vaccine, electronic computing, DNA, men on the moon.
“How incredibly wrong they are.
“I lived in Prague for a couple of years a while back. I didn’t own a washing machine. No one I knew owned a washing machine. For two years I did all of my laundry by hand in my bathtub. Every week or two I’d fill the tub up with hot water, toss the clothes and soap in, and then dance around on top of the soggy pile for a couple of hours before beginning the gruelling task of scrubbing, wringing and rinsing every last item. Not fun. Ask any third-world mother of six who spends a third of her life doing laundry and she’ll tell you, the greatest invention of the 20th century is–without any doubt–the electric washing machine.
“But it’s the second greatest invention of the 20th century that is about to have an anniversary. 75 years ago this September 7th, in his small
lab in San Francisco, Philo T. Farnsworth invented TELEVISION!
“My mother used to nag us about watching too much TV. “It’ll turn your minds to Jello,” she’d say as Gilligan spoiled yet another rescue attempt. “Turn that thing off and come to dinner,” she’d demand while Captain Kirk defeated the lizard guy with an improvised cannon for the nth time. “It’s bedtime after Laverne and Shirley,” she’d remind us on her way to the kitchen. As if four or five hours a day for years on end could somehow be harmful.
“On the contrary, most of what I know probably comes from television. The important stuff, anyway. Avagadro’s Number, Plutarch’s Caesar, and Keppler’s Laws of Planetary Motion don’t come up too often in my daily life; but knowing how to put out a grease fire (Emergency!), use a leather jacket to cross a barbed wire fence (The A-Team), and where to plant my cilantro (Martha Stewart), these are things that have some real importance from time to time.
“So I’ll be there for a couple of hours tomorrow, sitting on the sidewalk. Wearing clean clothes and watching a battery-powered TV, I’ll do my best to honor the two greatest technological leaps of the last 100 years, scaring all the passers-by with a demand that they sign my petition calling for a postage stamp commemorating Philo T. Farnsworth and whoever the hell invented the electric washing machine.”