Daleks and Nazis: Commentaries of History in Popular Culture

Daleks and Nazis: Commentaries of History in Popular Culture

No piece of popular culture be it a film, television program, is created in a cognitive vacuum. Writers and composers are always influenced by the world around them. Countless critics and writers have drawn parallels to the post 9/11 world we live in as existing in recent superhero films such as The Dark Knight and Man of Steel. Such are examples of how recent history has influenced popular culture and in turn how popular culture has been used as a medium of commentary for contemporary events. This isn’t a recent phenomenon, however. In fact, if we take a look at a far more catastrophic event such as the Second World War, the commentary and public consensus is far stronger. Here we’ll examine public consensus in the decades following the Second World War and how this was portrayed through the popular television program Doctor Who.

Although the First World War definitely left its scars upon the world, most notably most of Europe, the Second World War was a completely different ball game. The wild card here was the Holocaust. Whilst the First World War had its fair share of atrocities and destruction, The Holocaust was another form of evil entirely. The Allied Film and Photography Unit (AFPU), a unit specifically trained for capturing the war on film was assigned to the various Allied forces that liberated the Concentration Camps at the end of the war. Although Nazi anti-Semitism was well known throughout Britain, viewers struggled to come to terms with such graphic and disturbing images of human suffering and cruelty as they made their way to British households through newspapers reporting on the atrocities. Of course, such images caused a stir and elicited feelings and opinions from various people.

It’s quite interesting to note that quite explicit imagery as taken from the concentration camps appears in the Doctor Who serial Genesis of the Daleks, broadcast two decades later. Genesis of the Daleks involved the Doctor travelling back in time to the very dawn of the Daleks creation. Let’s compare some images:




At first it seems a little difficult to see the similarities between the two, but let’s examine a little closely. In both cases the “Inferior” and “Unworthy” races have been purged, and are being disposed of callously by machinery operated by the “Superior Race” (In the case of the Daleks the “Superior race” exists within the machinery).

However, why do images taken from two decades prior find their way into Doctor Who, and thus, public consciousness two decades later? Interest and concern in the Holocaust actually dwindled in Britain and the United States by 1949 in favor of more pressing issues such as the Cold War as well as more preferred memories. Britain in particular preferred to focus on the more “heroic” aspects of the Second World War such as the bravery of the London Blitz, the Battle of Britain, the “Dam Buster”, and the escape from Colditz prison. However, events and efforts surrounding the capture and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in Europe brought these issues back to public consciousness. The most notable of these was the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1960-1961. Although the trial took place in Israel, it was broadcasted globally, and brought the Holocaust back to public consciousness. Tim Cole actually argues that this was one of the key ingredients to creating the Holocaust “Myth” (meaning the way the Holocaust is remembered, rather than suggesting that it never occurred). Of greater significance is that it gave this generation, some of whom would have been born during or after the Second World War, a face to which they could pin the past atrocities on. Again, this is reminiscent in Genesis of the Daleks in the form of Nyder, who portrays a cold professionalism in keeping the Kaled race “pure” reminiscent with Nazi Concentration Camp commanders. The physical similarities between Nyder and Henrich Himmler, a key Nazi Concentration Camp Mastermind are also quite deliberate:



Figure 4 http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/large/public/2012/03/26/253530-heinrich-himmler.jpg

Figure 4 http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/large/public/2012/03/26/253530-heinrich-himmler.jpg

Of particular interest is the motivations behind the creation of the story as well as the reactions from the general public and it’s consistency with the reception of a Holocaust exhibition held in Coventry. Both Dr. Walter Deveen, convener of the exhibition, and Phillip Hinchcliffe and Terry Nation stated that the intention of the exhibition and Genesis of the Daleks was to educate the younger generation as to past atrocities and the dangers of Fascism. Both also received similar responses. Some praised both works for presenting realistic and respectful portrayals and messages regarding the atrocity. Others were highly critical, Canon Hedley Hodkin criticizing the exhibition for being nothing more than excessive sadism, and Mary Whitehouse, a campaigner for appropriate television viewing for youths criticized the serial for its violent content and realistic portrayals of trench warfare. Several school groups were also banned from attending the exhibition.

Events are easy to learn about and evaluate. However, uncovering feelings and opinions of the past of such events is somewhat harder to do. This is why popular culture is so useful. As popular culture is consumed by the vast majority, its popularity, viewership, and reception can be useful tools in analyzing past opinions and reactions.


Bibliography: Caven, H. “Horror in our Time: Images of the Concentration Camps in the British Media, 1945” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2001.

Chapman, James. Inside the TARDIS: The Worlds of Doctor Who (London, I.B. Tauris, 2006)

Tim Cole, Selling the Holocaust: From Auschwitz to Schindler, How History is Bought, Packaged, and Sold (New York, Routledge, 1999).

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks [DVD], director: D. Maloney, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1975.

Struck, Janina. Photographing the Holocaust: Interpretations of the Evidence (I.B. Tauris, New York, 2005).

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks Part 6: http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101106152439/headhuntersholosuite/images/3/37/Doctor_Who_-_Genesis_of_the_Daleks_(Part_6)_005.jpg

Holocaust Survivors Network: http://isurvived.org/Pictures_iSurvived-4/holocaust-corpses2.GIF

Kaleds http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101214215860/tardis/images/8/87/Kaleds.jpg

IB Times http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/large/public/2012/03/26/253530-heinrich-himmler.jpg


The historical significance of the “wireless monument” in Wahroonga.

The purpose of monuments is often to commemorate a particular moment in a government’s ascendancy and to impress on the visual senses of the subject. In general, they are difficult to imagine having in a place outside of the city. However, on a corner in leafy North Shore Wahroonga stands an unusual monument. It is on a roundabout with heavy morning and afternoon traffic, but motorists and passing pedestrians rarely notice it. Yet, the monument represents a highly significant milestone in Australian history, where politics, business issues, personal egos and communications technology converged into a remarkable achievement. The monument is the Fisk (or Wireless) Memorial and stands on a piece of donated land.

On the base of the monument, a bronze tablet is mounted and tells the story of the event:
The first direct wireless message from England to Australia, sent under the direction of the Marchese Marconi, from the Marconi wireless station, Carnarvon, Wales, was received by E. T. Fisk, in the experimental wireless station attached to his residence, Lucania, here on 22nd September 1918. (An Epoch of Radio Communication AWA (Sydney, 1935), p. 5)

This achievement represented Australia entering the scientific-technical world. But most importantly, it connected Australia not only with its mother country but with the rest of the world. All further developments of long distance radio communication, which have so effectively overcome Australia’s isolation, have grown from the scientific work carried out in 1918.
The three key people who co-operated in arranging the first wireless message from Wales to Wahroonga were Guglielmo Marconi, who developed the first system of radio communication, Ernest Fisk, best known in Australia as managing director of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), AWA and William Morris “Billy” Hughes, who was Prime Minister at the time.
Australia was a remote country whose primary need was communication to bridge its inland and overseas isolation and was the perfect country for Marconi to use his inventions to their full capacity. However, there was no action by the Australian Government, because the official attitudes continued to be influenced by the British Post Office. ( Philip Geeves, “Marconi and Australia”, AWA Technical Review, Vol 15, No 4. December 1974. p. 132) Another cause for the apparent disinterest in wireless technology was that Australia’s legislators had almost no understanding of radio potential in those early years and could not cope with the speed of electronic communication. (Geeves, “Marconi and Australia” p. 132). In addition, there was a fear of integration into a foreign system.
Australia’s defence was wedded to British sea power, concerns about defence grew steadily. Despite the steam ships and the submarine cable, opened in 1872, the government was very conscious of the long distance to London. (T. B. Millar, Australia in Peace and War (Botany,1991), p. 19). If enemy raiders had managed to cut undersea cables, Australia would have been isolated and in wartime, information and control could determine victory or defeat.
Prime Minister Hughes, in his inimitable style pushed to achieve the transmission. He fought single-handed at the Empire Conference for direct wireless communication between Empire and Australia and succeeded in overcoming opposition.
It was not until the First World War was in its closing stages, when experiments, lasting many months were conducted in the Wahroonga experimental station. Fisk had erected two radio masts in the backyard of Lucania, his residence, and the radio receiver was in the attic. The results were variable and it took until September 1918 before Fisk arranged for transmission of messages by Prime Minister Hughes and proved that direct wireless communication between Britain and Australia was feasible.
This historic event, of carrying voices across the ocean, something cables could not do until 1956, is testimony of Marconi’s and Fisk’s technical and commercial skills. (Daniel R. Headrick, The Invisible Weapon Telecommunications and International Politics 1851-1945 (1991) p. 116) This achievement marked both the culmination of a long period of research and the foundation of long distance wireless telegraph, telephone and broadcasting services which today link Australia with the rest of the world. That interaction between “technology” and “man” made history and the “wireless monument” encapsulates that achievement.

The monument was unveiled on 14th December, 1935, by Sir Ernest Fisk, following speeches from former Prime Minister Hughes and other dignitaries. In commemoration of the important incident, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story, announcing the unveiling.
The historical significance of the wireless monument is that it commemorates a technological landmark, a birth of science integrated with the history of political power and information.
On September 22, 1993, monument was brought back into a line of vision, when dignitaries from AWA, Fisk family, Ku-ring-gai Council and Wahroonga Amateur Historical Society commemorated the 75th anniversary at the site, Lucania.
VK2DYM’S Military Radio and Radar Information Site. Available at http://www.qsl.net/vk2dym/radio/Marconi.htm
Monument as it is today.


Monument now

Why Opt For Operation Barbarossa?

Why would the Germans invade the Soviet Union? They had enough wars already, surely, and the USSR was larger than all their other conquests combined. What exactly possessed them to take the leap?

There are realms of information available on the exact dates, times, context, and consequences of Operation Barbarossa already. It is one of the largest military actions of the war, was one of the greatest turning points, and is arguably the greatest military folly the Third Reich would ever commit.

Truly a gigantic task.

The effects of the Eastern Front are understandably enormous. More Germans died there than in every other theatre of war combined, and by a large margin. The Soviets lost an even greater number. It would influence the post-war situation in Europe through the Iron Curtain and the emergence of the USSR as a military superpower with a perhaps deserved paranoia of invasion. Not all of it was directly a consequence of Barbarossa, as later decisions in the East by both Axis and Allies and events in other theatres would play a part, but Barbarossa was the causal keystone.

The Nazi motivations for Barbarossa are less exact in literature. Within many history books on the overarching Eastern Fronts there are occasionally lists of reasons and rationales given for the Operation, but the relative significance of each is a murky and subjective area.

Used here are official Nazi documents and treaties, as well as secondary accounts of the War by later historians. I steered clear of autobiographies and the like as by the time most were written the world was very different and the aim of the authors was to rehabilitate their actions (I’m looking at you Albert Speer). I made an exception with Mein Kampf, as it was written before the war commenced and was more of a blueprint than a biography. For the documents I leaned heavily on the Anti-Comintern Pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, and the Führer Directives. Of the historians I had a half-dozen or so, but a special mention to Chris Bellamy’s “Absolute War” and Gerhard Weinberg’s “A World at Arms”, for their deeply grounded and well-structured accounts.

A Blueprint for Blood via Paper

Before locating reasons, we must look into the structure of the Nazi State and how it made decisions. Barbarossa is great example of a unilateral declaration of war, so the topic is confined to German actions and does not cover the Soviet response. It turns out the Nazis had a very murky system that cared little for due process. Hitler was preeminent and had the final say on policy both foreign and domestic, but his subservient ministries were quite weird. As far as I can tell their jurisdictions constantly fluctuated and usually overlapped each other far more than contemporary systems in the USSR, Italy, or the UK. Each ministry practiced a form of social Darwinism, competing with its rivals for Hitler’s favour and support. It’s not an efficient system, but I suppose it tried to ensure the most robust ideas and individuals thrived. Thus Hitler is the central character, while also noted are the views of the OKW (German military command), Goring, Goebbels, and far down the list Ribbentrop (he really was a placeholder for Hitler’s ambitions).

Finally we come to the usual suspects when considering reasons for Barbarossa. These are nationalistic, anti-Semitic and anti-communist, economic, political and military, and accidental.

Nationalism is a key driver in boosting German views of their own strength, dismissing the strengths of both Britain and the USSR, and justifying any methods chosen to further German aims.

Anti-Semitic and anti-communist ideologies both contribute to target the USSR as an enemy of Germany above and beyond any threat they possess or any rewards peace can provide. They are constantly souring relations between the Powers.

Economically, the USSR had a plethora of natural resources and space, both of which were highly desirable to a Germany that wished to become autarchic as soon as possible. The fact of the matter was that Germany would never be able to extract more from the land directly than they traded in 1940, but in 1941 they did not yet know that.

Politically and militarily, Germany should not have attacked. Hitler saw these aspects as positives because the Russian menace would be removed, the military would gain access to Allied possessions like India, and they could link with Japan, but this wasn’t enough. Britain did not scare Germany in 1941 in the way it would later when it becomes the “unsinkable aircraft carrier”.

The only real accident would endanger the plan, not instigate war. The timetable was thrown off by the need to pacify the Balkans, but Germany pushed ahead anyway on a revised start in late June.

Of these all there was a clear winner in the end. I was surprised, as I thought political factors or possibly anti-communism would feature more heavily, but nationalism was simply everywhere. It pervaded every debate and discussion, even when not recognised as such, and it always coloured the atmosphere to a more belligerent stance instead of a more conciliatory one.

FROM NIL TO NAZI: How the DNVP aided the rise of the Nazi Party

At the turn of the decade from World War I, the Nazi Party was doomed to relative obscurity in the German political scene. Germany was plagued with issues from World War I; their once rich and now debt-riddled economy from war reparations and the imposition of pacification measures through strict demilitarisation was to be the pivot of the next three decades of political contention.

For a most part, forgotten by history, the rise of the Nazi Party would not be so without the support of the DNVP – the German National People’s Party. Led by career politician and media mogul, Alfred Hugenberg in its latter period and ultimate downfall, the DNVP stood for areturn to a great Empire, unhindered by debt and subjugation from the Allied nations.

However, the DNVP was marred by a schism between their hard-right empiricism and the moderates who believed that cooperation with the new republican government was necessary. United under the ragtag title of conservatism, maintaining support amongst their industrialists and agrarians was always their utmost priority in order to prop up the German economy in opposition to policies such as the Treaty of Versailles and its successors. It was due to this schism in support over such plans that Hugenberg needed to garner popular support to ensure the continued existence of his party.

With industry at a halt and unemployment at a high, acceptance of the ‘war guilt’ clause of the Treaty of Versailles would stimulate the economy and provide employment to the citizen body as the Allied nations would invest in German capital and industry, although at a massive pacification cost through disarmament. The DNVP votership base remained thoroughly embedded within industrialists and white-collar producers.Acceptance would indicate profit, but also contravene the nationalist qualities of the DNVP in maintaining a Greater Germany.

When the Dawes Plan was found to be unsustainable for the longer term, support for the Young Plan proved controversial. Although it reduced the amount required to be repaid by the Republic, the Young Plan maintained the inclusion of the ‘war guilt’ clause.

Continued rejection of the ‘war guilt’ clause by the DNVP divided the industrialists, and its already minimal working class to the point where the DNVP suffered a crippling 6.3% swing in its 1928 election results. In order to restore the damage from this loss, Hugenbergrequired a campaign which sought popular albeit nationalist support to establish a referendum for the freedom from ‘enslavement’ of the German people. The only party which bore support from the working class with a controllable leader was the Nazi Party with Adolf Hitler.

In the grand scheme of German politics, Hitler was seen to be nothing more than a political nuisance – a failed revolutionary and a generally unsuccessful agitator. Hitler was a gifted orator, which became an asset to Hugenberg’s referendum campaign as his passion captivated the largely disempowered; the unemployed, veterans and working classes. Following the events of Beer Hall Putsch, in which Hitler failed to overthrow Munich and inspire a nationalist revolution amongst the people, he was tried and incarcerated for high treason. Not only was Hitler and the Nazi Party banned from Bavaria, but Hitler himself was banned from public oratory until 1927. With a ruined reputation, and emergence into a Germany that no longer required revolution, Hitler was made almost redundant.

For much of the 1920s, Hugenberg had ignored Hitler. Young and tenacious, Hitler bore popularity amongst the working class, which would compensate for the loss of the industrialist support. Thus, Hugenberg sought to re-establish Hitler.

Hitler bore few qualities which Hugenberg required, although those which he did have proved useful as he provided what Hugenberg could not. Hitler had earned an Iron Cross for his contributions in World War I. In a highly authoritarian nation, this elevated his capability of operating within a centralised government. Hugenberg was a career politician and one of Germany’s wealthiest. His incapability to bond with the general population was often ridiculed by his political opponents. In addition, his oratory was said to be ‘droning’, and far removed from interesting. Hitler’s oratory and youth appealed to the wider population. Having suffered unemployment and hardship in his youth Hitler could empathise with the population, and share in their woes. He inspired hope and a Greater Germany to a disempowered people. Finally, in restoring credibility, Hugenberg’s control over almost 150 newspapers in the Republic gave him ample ability to find credibility in Hitler. By allowing coverage, Hitler and his Nazi cause became a household name, and one endorsed by the already popular and trustworthy DNVP.

However, it was also these things which Hugenberg endorsed of Hitler which caused the fall of the DNVP. The Young Plan was eventually passed due to the ill turn out of the population to vote. Although the issue proved popular, it was not enough to represent a majority of the German population. Both parties blamed each other for the failure, causing a severance between their relations. Seen as more representative of the general population and having forged financial relations with leading industrialists and agrarians, the Nazi Party had found its support base. DNVP supporters had abandoned their party and claimed the Nazi Party as their own.

– Beck, Hermann. The Fateful Alliance. New York: Berghahn -Books, 2008.
– Bendersky, Joseph W. A Concise History of the Weimar Republic. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007.
– Walker, D. C. “The German Nationalist People’s Party: The Conservative Dilemma in the Weimar Republic.”Journal of Contemporary History, 1979: 637-640.
– Weitz, Eric D. The Weimar Republic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Voltaire’s Heirs: “The Jewish Question” and the Secular Left, 1840-1953

We find in [Jews] only an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched.”

Ascribing unlikeable traits to racial heritage? Check. Arguing that Jews are hostile to the societies that heroically tolerate them? Check. Vitriolic prejudice? Check. We are clearly dealing, if not with a bona fide fascist, then certainly with a seriously reactionary racist. Only we’re not. The quote is taken from the “Juifs” entry of Voltaire’s 1764 Dictionaire Philosophique. If Voltaire, who can certainly claim “star status” in the European Enlightenment, was so anti-Semitic, what did that mean for the Enlightenment’s heirs, the rationalists and the secularists? Was Voltaire an aberration, his remark just a strange instance of intolerance within a largely tolerant movement, or was anti-Semitism far wider reaching than conventional wisdom allows?

When I started researching my capstone essay, I thought it would be interesting to compare the different ways Leftist and Rightist political movements used anti-Semitism in the nineteenth century. Yet as I started researching the Right-wing side of the story, I realized the topic had been so comprehensively covered by historians, from so many different angles, there was little I could add to the picture. On the other hand, I was constantly astounded by the breadth and depth of the evidence I was finding for Leftist anti-Semitism. Given that so much present-day anti-Semitism is coming from the Left— have a look at Barney Zwartz and Adam Morton’s Age article detailing attacks on Jews at Australian campuses, linked below— it seemed like a pertinent area to look into.

I ended up widening the chronological scope of my essay to include three “snapshots” of Leftist anti-Semitism. I looked first at the Young Hegelians, the movement from which Marx sprung. Marx and his 1840s contemporaries first indicted Judaism as a religion because, really, it had started the whole bloody monotheism thing, hadn’t it? The Young Hegelians also just couldn’t understand why, in the places where Jews had been granted emancipation, why weren’t they abandoning their rituals, their funny hats, their strange beards; didn’t they want to be like us? Their frustration echoes loudly with that two thousand year old Christian frustration: why won’t those pesky Jews just hurry up and convert!

Of course backwardness wasn’t all the Young Hegelians objected to: Jews were also progressive in a way, but in the wrong way. While nineteenth-century conservatives were stereotyping the Jew as a sinister Bolshevik mastermind, their liberal contemporaries were simultaneously condemning the Jew as a capitalist powerhouse. Apparently no one in the nineteenth-century had much of a nose for irony. Marx’s equation of Judaism and capitalism, and his longing for “the emancipation of society from Judaism” would be carried into the twentieth century by his British followers.

Beatrice Webb and J. A. Hobson are just two of many British Marxist socialists who, in their crusades against class repression and imperialism, drew on Marx’s anti-Semitism, which was itself drawn from the Christian variety. When Hobson asked, in his 1902 Imperialism. “Does anyone seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European state… if the House of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?” he was implying that Jewish influence (symbolized by the Jewish bankers the Rothschilds) was more powerful than all of the European states. He wasn’t isolated in his paranoia, either: In the 1800s Webb warned readers that (penniless) Jewish immigrants would exploit and suppress the East End poor with their “superior mental equipment” and “flexible morality”. By stressing the underhandedness of the Jew Hobson and Webb show us that, enlightened as they may be, they still haven’t forgiven Judas.

So far we have been discussing words, not actions. Now let’s have a look at the end of the Stalinist reign in the USSR and see if potentially genocidal anti-Semitism is something limited to fascism. After a decade of mounting official anti-Semitism, in 1952 Stalin tried and executed twenty-three Yiddish writers for their attempt (admitted to be a fabrication by successor governments) “to establish a bourgeois and Zionist republic”; in the infamous 1953 “Doctor’s Plot” a group of mostly Jewish doctors were accused of being hired by an American Jewish organization to poison the Soviet leadership. Historians like Louis Rapoport and Benjamin Pinkus argue this plot would serve as a pretext for the mass pogrom and exile of Soviet Jews to Siberia Stalin was planning. Though he died a couple of weeks later and thus the plan never went into effect, the flurry of anti-Semitic propaganda in the Soviet media, the mass dismissal of Jewish employees from their posts, the spike in anti-Semitic street assaults and even a spike in assaults on Jewish children in Soviet schools, seem to testify to his intentions.

The Stalinist holocaust never happened. So perhaps it makes sense that Leftist anti-Semitism is studied so much less than its Right-wing variant. Yet the fact that it could have happened, and likely came well near happening, unsettles the conventional wisdom which holds that with the defeat of Nazism came the defeat of anti-Semitism.

See For Yourself
Zwartz, Barney and Adam Morton, “An Unholy Alliance,” The Age September 4 2006:http://www.theage.com.au/news/in-depth/an-unholy-alliance/2006/09/03/1157222010013.html?page=fullpage

Hobson, J.A. Imperialism: A Study. London: James Pott and Co., 1902.

Karl Marx on Religion. Edited by Saul K. Padover. New York: McGraw Hill, 1974

Pinkus, Benjamin. The Jews of the Soviet Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Rapoport, Louis. Stalin’s War Against the Jews. London: Free Press, 1990.

Wistrich, Robert S. Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred. London: Methuen, 1991. (Contains info. about Beatrice Webb)

Changing Representations Of The Home Computer In Home Computer Advertising Since The 1980s

Since its introduction in 1977 the home computer has revolutionised life both at home and at the office in ways that could not have been fathomed prior to its creation. It has evolved from an unwieldy, inefficient and often impractical device into a sleek, intuitive and portable appliance of which many homes and offices around the world can no longer run as effectively in its absence. As it has evolved and developed in a physical sense, the way in which it has been advertised and marketed to the masses over the years since its creation has been similarly radical. In order to see this change and also how representations of home computing have changed in computer advertising since the early 1980s it is essential to look at how computer advertising was characterised in the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s and how these periods were different from one another in their approach.


Figure 1, Apple Computer Advertisement, 1980. Image taken from: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/09/the-evolution-of-apple-ads/

Computer advertisements in the 1980s in a general sense were based around providing the consumer with as much information as possible regarding a relatively new and unfamiliar technology in order to sell the user on what a home computer could do to revolutionise life both at home and in the office. Ads were heavy in text and specifications and frequently used imagination stoking imagery and techniques to allay public fears of the alleged complexity of the technology. Computer manufacturer, Atari was particularly known for its use of enticing imagery and promising users “A world beyond your wildest dreams”. Their ability to romanticise a product that was often far more frustrating than productive or useful was renowned and even the company’s earliest ads had a quality that the competition couldn’t even come close to fathoming. In terms of the actual character of advertisements from this period, print ads generally consisted of text-laden documents often recruiting the help of celebrities and notable historical figures to further assert their message. Apple ads in particular used such historical icons as Benjamin Franklin in their print ads (Figure 1) and later popular talk show host Dick Cavett on screen to provide a familiar medium through which to reach the products targeted audience.


Figure 2, Apple Computer Advertisement, 1992. Image taken from: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/09/the-evolution-of-apple-ads/

While 1980s home computer advertisement centred on informing the consumer about how owning a computer could enrich their home and office life advertising in the 1990s shifted to a new approach. The introduction of the Pentium P5 processor brought an overall faster and more efficient product and opened the door for endless possibilities in high definition games, digital photography as well as multitasking with the Windows 3.1 operating system. Now that the basic hardware and structure of that hardware had been established, advertising shifted to what software and programs could do for an individual and how it could enhance one’s home computing experience. In essence, advertising became less about specifications and product centred technical information and more about new and exciting ways in which it could be used. Print ads became less about text-heavy information laden sheets about what the product could do and more about stylish imagery and short taglines (Figure 2). Staples of 1980s ads such as their use of historical figures evolved into a more sustained use of celebrities to market their products. Apple’s popular “Think Different” campaign was testament to this. In addition to this 1990s computer advertising began to showcase rivalry between computer manufacturers Apple and IBM far more extensively as seen in such instances as Apple’s infamous ‘1984’ campaign, an event marking a turning point in the way in which home computers were marketed.


Figure 3, Apple Computer Advertisement, 2001. Image taken from: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/09/the-evolution-of-apple-ads/

By the dawn of the 21st century most major improvement regarding home computer technology had already been made. The technology was established and familiar and a large quantity of the target market were well aware of the advantages of owning a home computer. One could argue at this stage, perhaps that personal computer technology had become so ingrained in society that the initial marketing strategies employed in the 1980s had essentially become obsolete. By this point in time advertising began targeting the more portable version of technology in the laptop and spent less time marketing its desktop counterpart with a few notable exceptions including Apple’s iMac. Apple and other PC advertisements in general had become noticeably more artistic (Figure 3) in their approach and began to focus on showcasing the product for what it was physically rather than the form of text laden specifications seen earlier in the 1980s and to some degree in the 1990s. As a result of this product marketing began to move away from print advertisements and began almost exclusively focusing on television advertisement. By this time the technology had become self-sufficient and essentially marketed itself which left innovation and stylistic development as the only area to be taken advantage of when advertising a company’s products.

From heavy text laden fact sheets about how a computer could provide a better life for the whole family in 1980, more colourful ads imploring the consumer to invest in the latest software and hardware upgrades in the 1990s to the stylistic flair showcased in artistic television commercials in the 2000s, it is clear that advertising of the product has developed not only in its physical appearance but also in its targeted audience and purpose. As a result it is valid to say that representations of home computing in computer advertising have significantly changed since the 1980s and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise that this will not continue into the future.

Bibliography and Further Reading:

Ditlea, Steve, “An Apple on Every Desk,” Inc., October (1981)

Freiberger, Paul, Swaine, Michael, Fire in the Valley: The Making of the Personal Computer, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000

Hoover, Elizabeth, “The Birth of Apple”,  American Heritage, April 1, (2006)

Maney, Kevin, “Apple’s ’1984′ Super Bowl Commercial Still Stands as Watershed Event”, USA Today, January 28,(2004).

Rheingold, H.,  Tools for thought: the history and future of mind-expanding technology , Massachussets: Cambridge, 2000

Richter, Paul, “IBM Moves to Dominate the Personal Computer Market”, Los Angeles Times, January 31, (1982). 

Roy A. Allan A, History of the Personal Computer, New York: Alan Publishing, 2001

Steinghilper, Ulrich, Don’t Talk- Do It! From Flying To Word Processing. London: Manchester University Press, 2006.

Williams, Jake, “Striking it Rich: America’s Risk Takers and The Seeds of Success,” Time, February 15, (1982).

Who Shot the Sheriff? The Demise of the office of Presidency from 1950 to Watergate

Three Days of the Condor, All The Presidents Men, Enemy of the State, and State of Play. These four Hollywood blockbusters are just a few films in the ever-growing list of popular cultural stabs at the American political system and the office of the President.

Corrupt Senator: Ben Affleck in 'State of Play'

Corrupt Senator: Ben Affleck in ‘State of Play’

These stories of corruption and abuse of power would have once been considered blasphemous in the eyes of the American public, yet now they almost fail to raise a disinterested brow. Why?
Society and popular culture now regularly discredit the President and his constituents and the practice has become common place.
Yet what is more alarming? The fact that the President is almost expected to behave in a base and illegal manner at some point throughout his tenure? Or that no one is really surprised or truly cares that he does?
How did this once lordly office, a position of insurmountable prestige and power, become so dismantled, degenerate, so dubious?
The answer is as obvious as it is oppressing; the men who are responsible for the public cynicism are the men who suffer its consequences. And none are more guilty than Richard ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon and his government’s involvement and cover-up of the Watergate Scandal.

Liberty Lost: Nixon Resigns amid 3 charges of Impeachment

Liberty Lost: Nixon Resigns amid 3 charges of Impeachment

In 1972, under the order of the Republican Party, the Democratic headquarters at Watergate suffered a series of break-ins and wire-taps. The burglars were caught and sentenced but the following two years saw the biggest cover-up scandal by high office in American history. The end result was the fitting, and first ever, resignation of the American President on August 7, 1974. To this day the two year debacle is widely considered the most catastrophic and damaging event the proud political system has suffered, and the ever-present legacies are firm reason for this.
Watergate not only changed the political statistics and the record books, but it changed forever the shape of American government and most devastating of all, the way the people of the United States perceived their President. Among the most dramatic changes to government were the developments of legislature;
The Sunshine Act passed in 1976 required government agencies to conduct all meetings open to the public; The Ethics in Government Act passed in 1978 required public officials to disclose their financial and employment history and it created tight restrictions on lobbying; The Presidential Records Act also passed in 1978 ordered the preservation of all presidential records and documents. These bills were most emphatic because whilst they provided a safety net for the voting public, they issued a backhanded warning of distrust to all future governments.
The most damaging consequence, however, whilst rather intangible, was the instant and infinite reaction of the public to turn their back a system that was forged and implemented by men of legend. Poor Presidents Ford and Carter felt the immediate backlash. In 1979 President Carter pleaded for a progression from Watergate and stated that the incessant problem was a “fundamental threat to American democracy…a crisis of confidence…that strikes at the heart…of our national will…a growing disrespect for government. ” Carter was right – the threat to democracy was real and active. The 1976 election polls tallied only 54.8percent of eligible voters, a number that was the lowest since the end of the Second World War .

Despite his profound and popularised claims to the contrary, Nixon was a ‘crook’ . And despite his responsibility for Watergate, the event was not the only to tarnish the Oval Office.
Previous governments and presidents had been more than compliant in their efforts to chip away at the golden armour of the most powerful man in the world and, beginning with Eisenhower, they paved the way for the capitulation of public approval for nigh on twenty years. Incidents and events including McCarthyism, the Assassination of JFK, the violent Civil Rights movements and most importantly the catastrophe of the Vietnam War, dominated a period renowned American historian, James T. Patterson identifies as, “so crowded with contradictions and complexities, so befogged with myths to glorify successes and expectations, as well as myths to justify failures and disgraces. ” The demise and distrust began here, with Vietnam the most comparable disaster to Watergate.
These events began the decline in public support and presidential infallibility, combining to combust with the crescendo of Nixon’s catastrophe.

Just as there is no clearing Nixon’s government of wrong-doing, there is no striking Watergate from History. The event altered the course of American politics forever but was not without a solid launching pad. The American Presidency has fallen from grace and those responsible, through action or inaction, are indisputably the American presidents.

Further Reading:

Ackerman, B. “The Decline and Fall of the American Republic” Harvard University Press, 2010

Finney, D. “Watergate Scandal Changed Political Landscape Forever” USA Today Newspaper, Published 16 June 2012

Frost, D. “Frost V Nixon” Television Interviews available online at Nixon Library, http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/

Jeffrey, H.P., Maxwell-Long, T. “Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon: Impact of a Constitutional Crisis” CQ Press, 2004

Patterson, J. T. “Grand Expectations: The United States 1945-1974” Oxford University Press, 1996

Woodward, B. “Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate”  Simon and Schuster, 1999