45 years ago. Talk about computers and a new form of communication – of exchanging ideas and data between people and groups – of creating a vast source of knowledge, all at your fingertips. Those were concepts filed under the heading; “If You’re Gonna Dream, Dream Big”. Although the writing had been on the wall for sometime, the question as to whether it would be something all people could benefit from, or was this something only available to a select few, was the question. Mostly it was a question of how to take something that was, as of 1973, pretty cumbersome and make it something that could be in every home. But it was also a question of how much would this new technology cost the individual – was it prohibitive? And ultimately, would this be something of interest to most people, or just the fringes?
Computers had become part of our lives for many years before 1973 – but it was the 70s that the concept of the Personal Computer started taking form. What was the next growth spurt going to be and what was it going to look like? The subject of communication in general was going through changes. Satellite communications were now common and the idea of conference calls between groups in companies all over the country and the world was actively being tried.
But still, it all boiled down to an issue of whether this would be something to appeal to everyone. In 1973 it was all about data exchange; nothing terribly fancy or special about it. Sheets and sheets of figures and raw data with not much in the way of form to make it interesting to the casual user. But ultimately, was this something that could benefit the human race? Would all this potential access to knowledge from everywhere be beneficial, and how would we use it?
This was the basis for a group of lectures delivered in Montreal in 1973. It became a thesis and a series of radio lectures by the CBC in Canada and for international distribution as a series of 13 1/2 hour programs dealing with the subject. A preface by Alan Yates, who wrote his thesis for an MA in Communications at the English Department of McGill University in Montreal prefaces the program:
“In April 1973 a major international conference on communications was held in Montreal.
The conference of the International Communications Association, being held for the first time
outside the United States, thus provided a unique Canadian opportunity to gather together and
provide access to communications scholars from all over the continent. It was obvious from the
advance program that the conference would be highly academic and language-oriented; that the
material to be presented and discussed was of potentially high interest to a general audience but
that it would probably not be readily accessible to such a wider audience.
As a thesis project, I decided to attempt to produce not only a report on the research
projects described at the conference but a series of radio programs that would make the research
available and understandable to the wider public. The result of the endeavor is a series of thirteen
half-hour radio programs entitled: “Communications: Toward!> a New Humanism.”
The programs, as described in the accompanying brochure, represent a combined academicl
journalistic perspective of the ICA Conference that, hopefully, is acceptable both to scholars in the
field of communications as well as to an educated and socially-concerned radio audience. By its
non-c,ommercial distribution th radio stations and educational institutions throughout the world,
the program series constitutes a unique communications resource and sociological radio documentary
Sporadic broadcast attempts have been made here in Canada to present specific aspects of
communications and, usually, mass media concern, but there has been no such attempt in this
country to present a comprehensive view of human communications research of this scope and of this
In 1966, an attempt was made in New York to bring sixty prominent scholars and journalists
together at a Conference on Behavioural Sciences and the Mass Media, to lIexplore ways to achieve
closer co-operation and interplay between the two fields and thus to increase and improve public
understanding of behavioural sciences.” The book: “Behavioural Sciences and the Mass Media,”
listed in the bibliography at the end of this paper, is the result of that conference. This project is a
similar broadcast attempt to promote interplay between the two fields and thus promote better public
understanding of the multi-disciplined communications field.”
Fascinating glimpse into what we now take very much for granted but which constituted a study in The Brave New World in 1973.
Here is Program 13, the conclusion of the series as broadcast by CBC International in 1973.