Jim, my husband, moved his workshop into a new building recently. It looks like a little Victorian cottage from the outside; inside, it’s all counters, workbenches, heavy machinery and electric points. It has been empty for a while. The landlord is a friendly chap, who ran a television repair business out of the building for many years before retiring.
The place needed a good scrub and hadn’t been decorated since the 1970s. We picked a colour scheme with the help of a Kevin McCloud book (the closest we will ever come to a Grand Design), stripped out the counter and painted over the cheesy fake 1970s wood panelling. Pegboards were painted and framed; tools were neatly arranged and even the little kitchenette was scrubbed until it gleamed. It didn’t look bad when it was done.
Anyway, when we were taking bits and bobs down from the walls, we were curious to find this receipt from 1978 pinned to the wall by the front door:
It is dated 2 February 1978, and is for a Phillips 22” television priced at £329.
So next time my husband saw the landlord, he asked about it. It turns out the landlord found that receipt some years ago, goggled at the price and pinned it to the wall for nostalgia.
“What you have to remember”, he said, “is that back then, my brand new car cost less than that telly.”
How times change: televisions, while still expensive, are relatively cheap. Are they less prized? They are certainly more disposable than they used to be. Colin, the TV repairman who lives next door to us, complains that instead of getting the televisions repaired, people now buy the flatscreens – which he says don’t last nearly as long – and chuck them out when they’re broken.
Either way, doesn’t it seem incredible that a new television used to cost as much as a new car in the UK?