The Monkey Trial of the Century

By Rick Chromey | May 5, 2021 |

It was one of the most influential, transformative court cases of the 20th century.

The Scopes Trial–or “Monkey Trial” as some called it–focused on a Tennessee high school teacher named John Scopes. He was charged with teaching evolution. The only problem? He didn’t know if he actually taught the origins theory. Nevertheless, to force a case against the Tennessee Butler Act that prohibited teaching evolution, Scopes incriminated himself.

The July 1925 trial was a media circus in small town America (Dayton, TN). The whole point was to stage a trumped up “injustice” to show how backward folks (like small town, rural Tennesseans) were holding back the progress of true science. Never mind that much of the science used by Scopes’ attorney Clarence Darrow to defend evolutionary theory was later found to be erroneous. For example, the introduction of “Nebraska Man” was later discovered to be built entirely from the tooth of an extinct pig.

In the end, famed celebrity prosecutor William Jennings Bryan persuaded the jury to convict John Scopes and he was fined $100 (about $1500 today). Later that guilty verdict was overturned.

Ultimately, this famous trial positioned the religious right (creationists) against the secular left (evolutionists) in an ongoing battle that remains to this day. In fact, today the origins position is almost entirely reversed. And while not illegal, it’s creationism and “creation science” that’s censored, dismissed and not taught in our nation’s public schools.

Nevertheless the whole controversy started 96 years ago, on this date, in 1925.

Network News is Born!

By Rick Chromey | May 3, 2021 |

If your over 40, you remember a day when the three big networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) dominated the television news landscape.

Indeed, the 1960s and 1970s were the “golden age” of network news, featuring personalities like Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Howard K. Smith. There were also new emerging (and future) stars like Dan Rather (CBS), Tom Brokaw (NBC) and Peter Jennings (ABC).

The list of news anchors for CBS News is a rather short one for 57 years (or until 2005): Douglas Edwards (1948-1962), Walter Cronkite (1962-1981) and Dan Rather (1981-2005). Since 2005, there have been five anchors: Bob Schieffer (2005-2006), Katie Couric (2006-2011), Scott Pelly (2011-2017), Jeff Glor (2017-2019) and Norah O’Donnell (2019-present).

It was Walter “That’s The Way It Is” Cronkite who broke the news on John F. Kennedy’s assassination and was the guide to man’s landing on the moon. In many ways, these two events sandwiched the Vietnam era of the 1960s. And network news carried it all. In the 1980s, with the advent of the Cable News Network (CNN), news moved from a daily half-hour “magazine” to 24/7/365.

Suddenly, news was NOW…or really the NOWS.

And it all started on this date 73 years ago today.

The Age of Television is Launched!

By Rick Chromey | April 30, 2021 |

In the course of human history, there are few technologies that significantly reimagine everything and move culture forward exponentially. Fire. Gunpowder. The Printing Press. The Internet.

And television.

The world before television–the projection of visuals into the private home–reimagined how we lived. It proved, in the end, more than just an entertainment evolution. In the 1940s, radio was the king of home entertainment. By 1960 the new king was television (and radio was gasping to survive).

The American family home fixated and centered on television. The box in the corner controlled our “prime time” schedules. Between 8 and 11 p.m. eastern time, television lit up American evenings with dramas, westerns, sitcoms, variety shows, sports, music, movies and other visual entertainment. Our news shifted to create new visual stars like Murrow, Cronkite, Brinkley, Smith and Huntley. Billy Graham reimagined church from a chapel to a stadium, the steeple to an antenna. Sports moved from local favorites to national commodities. Even education shifted thanks to television, the new teacher, mentor and babysitter.

In the 1960s, live television feeds (thanks to satellites in space) and cable television evolved. Three decades later satellite and streamed television would emerge. Television introduced innovations like the remote control, video cassette recorder, DirecTV/Dish, TiVo/DVR Blockbuster/Redbox movie rentals, video gaming, HD and flat screens, Roku/Sling/Apple TV.

Today, many American households have televisions in multiple rooms, including the bathroom, patio and garage. The average channel lineup is in the hundreds. What’s changing now is how we consume our televised programming. The Big Three networks–thanks to cable–are no more. In fact, cable and satellite are dying. Most viewers now watch television via the stream and store their favorite shows in the cloud.

Television changed the world.

And it all started on this day in 1939.

The First Family of Radio

By Rick Chromey | April 29, 2021 |

You’ve probably heard of the radio shows “The Shadow,” “Abbott and Costello,” “Amos ‘n Andy” or “Ozzy and Harriet,” but what about One Man’s Family?

This popular American radio soap opera broadcasted from 1932 to 1959. Developed by Carlton E. Morse, One Man’s Family was the longest-running uninterrupted dramatic serial in the history of American radio. One Man’s Family also had the rare distinction to air both in prime time and daytime television (1949 – 1952).

In many ways it set the stage for family dramas in the 1950s and 1960s, from Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver to The Andy Griffith Show and Bonanza.

One Man’s Family was the template for the all-American television family.

And it debuted on this date in 1932.


The Mouse Hits the Big 4-0!

By Rick Chromey | April 27, 2021 |

On April 27, 1981, I was a senior in high school. In six weeks I would graduate and leave home for good. At the time I was typing my papers on an electric typewriter. In graduate school I bought my first desktop computer and learned the misery of early MS-DOS computing. In the mid-1990s I bought my growing family a Windows desktop computer that featured something new: a mouse. 

Suddenly computing was fun…just move and click! But was that a left or right click?

The history of “mousing” actually goes back to the 1940s through primitive trackball devices. However, it was Xerox that introduced the modern mouse on this date four decades ago. In a strange twist, however, it wasn’t Xerox that popularized its use on computers but rather Apple. That’s right, in 1984 the Apple MacIntosh was released with a mouse. Other computer companies followed suit and by the mid-1990s the mouse was a common feature in computing.

How did the “mouse” get its name? Actually because it resembled a mouse with its tail (to early designers). Computer mice also spawned the mousepad…a rubber backed surface on which to roll the mouse effectively. Anybody remember banging your mouse when the track ball gummed up? Guilty! Some people even named their computer mouse. Mine was “Mickey.”

Since the advent of touch technology (tracking pads and screen), the mouse isn’t as popular nor necessary. Laptops and tablets proved poison for this non-furry computer additive. Nevertheless, the mouse remains a hot commodity, especially among gamers. In fact, some mice can cost a pretty piece of cheese today…like this one for over $900!

So today we celebrate the computer mouse…turning the big 4-0 today

Boomers The First To Get the Point on Polio!

By Rick Chromey | April 26, 2021 |

Polio was a feared disease in the early and mid-1900s. The crippling disease had disabled Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. But, even more so, polio was epidemic among children (who saw the lion share of the cases). In 1952 there were 58,000 new cases of poliomyelitis (with 3000 deaths). The worst part was polio was a virus. Consequently, quarantines were common, as well as a device known as the “iron lung” (to help respiration).

Enter Jonas Salk.

In March of 1953, Dr. Salk announced he had cracked the code to an “anti-polio” vaccine. A year later, on this date in 1954, the first shot of polio vaccine was administered in a series of clinical trials. In 1955, the vaccine was considered safe and children were openly inoculated. Studies showed Salk’s vaccine was four times as effective in preventing polio. Consequently, within just two years the cases were down to 6000 annually.

In 1962 a Polish-American named Al Sabin developed an oral vaccine that was routinely administered in a sugar cube. For the Television, Space and Gamer generations (born between 1940 and 1980), Salk’s vaccine eradicated the dreadful disease of polio. Today, only a handful of children are stricken with its crippling and deadly grip.

It’s one of the most, if not most successful, wholesale vaccinations against a virus in the history of mankind.

New Coke Is Introduced

By Rick Chromey | April 23, 2021 |

It was either the worst move in soda history or a brilliant marketing ploy.

But on this day 35 years ago, Coca-Cola announced they were changing the formula for its historic drink. The move made sense as a new “Pepsi Generation” was slowly eating into profits (helped by clever, targeted advertisements to younger generations). Pepsi is a sweeter cola and “New Coke” was an intentional evolution to meet market demand.

The only problem? Tradition. Coca-Cola was a historic brand and loyal Coke drinkers didn’t want the company messing with the formula or monkeying with the brand. There was a reason Coke enthusiasts didn’t drink Pepsi. Things go better with Coca-Cola. Coke was it. It’s the real thing. I’d like to buy the world a Coke. 

The outcry was so furious, loud and clear that Coke executives reversed course…sort of. New Coke was here to stay, they said, but to appease traditionalists they reintroduced Coke Classic (original formula). It seemed like a great idea, but time soon proved Coke Classic the “real thing.” A few years later, New Coke was quietly pulled from shelves (since few were buying it) and Coke Classic was renamed as “Coca-Cola” or “Coke.”

The irony? It wasn’t really the “original Coca-Cola formula.”

When the Coca-Cola company re-introduced Coke Classic they switched out sugar for “high fructose corn syrup.” It was a subtle change but noticeable to die-hard Coke aficionados. To this day, in USAmerica, Coca-Cola is served with corn syrup not sugar. If you truly want a taste of the “real (original formula) thing,” you must travel to Mexico or Africa or other parts of the world (where it’s also still sold ice cold in bottles using sugar as its sweetener).

It’s a CLASSIC tale for those who still prefer to buy the world a Coke.

Barbara Walters Joins ABC News

By Rick Chromey | April 22, 2021 |

In the mid-1970s, television news was largely a man’s sport. And then Barbara Walters joined the ABC News anchor desk with Harry Reasoner to shatter the glass ceiling. The women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s–including the Equal Rights Amendment for women in America–was reimagining the workplace.

Barbara Walters was a nightly visual for how far women had come. In time there would be women sports reporters (in men’s locker rooms), women astronauts (Sally Ride), women CEOs, women police officers and fire personnel, women referees and professional sports (WNBA), among many other workplace roles.

But in many ways it was Barbara Walters who pioneered this social change simply by her presence and excellence in news broadcasting. She paved the way for the Jane Pauleys, Katie Courics, Diane Sawyers and Savannah Guthries.

And she was very good at it.

Geraldo’s Vault Comes Up Empty

By Rick Chromey | April 21, 2021 |

America tuned in, by the millions, for this true “reality television” moment. It was unscripted made-for-ratings television. Geraldo Rivera had made a name for himself as a no-nonsense commentator on American culture and politics for ABC News. He had his own talk show that drew modestly good ratings.

On this date, Rivera’s image was tarnished.

The build up to the moment was pure television drama. Somehow Rivera had found Al Capone’s secret vault. Inside, he proposed, could be all sorts of treasures. However, when the moment arrived and the vault was opened…NOTHING.

But it was something.

Television was moving toward LIVE REALITY. Reality television (taped) was already around, but live reality was not…at best that was the fodder of fledgling cable television news outlets like CNN. But Geraldo introduced a new type of reality: live and unscripted.

In time, Geraldo Rivera would recover his reputation (somewhat) but LIVE REALITY TELEVISION was here to stay…and thrive…from CourtTV (live trials) to LivePD (live police action) to 24/7 news coverage.

Columbine Shootings Begin New Era

By Rick Chromey | April 20, 2021 |

Today is a day that will live in infamy for the Personal Computer/Cellphone (b. 1980 – 2000) and Net (b. 1990 – 2010) generations. Also commonly known as “Millennials,” the tragic school shooting in Columbine was the beginning of several that would tattoo these generations. From a kindergarten in Sandy Hook to a high school in Parkland, FL, these two generations would grow up in an age of terror (including their marker event on September 11, 2001). Nowhere would be safe. Mass shootings occurred at theaters, concerts, restaurants, workplaces, even church.

Today is a solemn day to reflect and remember how we felt 22 years ago. I remember coming home from a long day of work, flipping on the television to be confronted with the Columbine shootings. As I watched the streams of teens exit the school, tears rolling down their faces, in shock and fear, my heart was broken.

The innocence was now gone.