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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Programme Information

Network TV BBC Week 39
Electric Dreams Feature

The Sullivan-Barnes family get to grips with the technology of the past

The Sullivan-Barnes family get to grips with the technology of the past L-R: Ellie Sullivan, Steffi Barnes, Adam Barnes, Jude Sullivan-Barnes, Georgie Sullivan and Hamish Sullivan

Electric Dreams

Tuesday 29 September on BBC FOUR

BBC Four presents a unique insight into how the technological revolution of the last 40 years has transformed all our lives in Electric Dreams, part of the Electric Revolution season of programmes. The three-part series features the Sullivan-Barnes family, who have bravely agreed to be transported back to 1970 – the dawn of the digital age – and then fast-forwarded at the rate of a day per year through the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.

At the beginning of the first episode, the Sullivan-Barnes family are stripped of all the mod cons that they rely so heavily on in their daily lives – so it's goodbye to their three games consoles, three DVD players, five mobile phones, six televisions and seven computers, not to mention their dishwasher, two washing machines and tumble dryer. Their family home is also "renovated" to reflect the trends and tastes of a typical Seventies family; cue the brown wallpaper, dubious fashion, Ford Cortina and twin-tub washer.

The house is regularly modernised throughout the series and updated with the latest technological advances to reflect the changing times, as the family hurtles towards the year 2000. How will they cope without colour television, computer games and mobile phones? And how will the experiences of the children compare with those of their parents, who live through the revolution for the second time?

Their journey through time affects every area of their lives, as they attempt to travel, work, shop and play with only the gadgets that would have been available at the time. They'll see first hand just how much family lives have changed since 1970.

Meet the family

Adam Barnes (43)

Georgie Sullivan (41)

Hamish Sullivan (13)

Ellie Sullivan (12)

Steff Barnes (12)

Jude Sullivan-Barnes (2)

The Sullivan-Barneses are a busy, modern "blended" family living in Reading. Their lives are informed by the latest technology for both work and leisure.

Dad Adam is a chartered accountant. He's a huge technology enthusiast and wants to use this opportunity to show the kids the wonder of his childhood gadgets. Mum Georgie is Director of Performance at an NHS hospital. She is less interested in technology in the home than Adam. She spent the majority of her youth outside socialising and she wants to show her children that they can have fun without their own personal screens and mobile phones to entertain them. Both parents are hoping that the project will teach them all lessons in how they can come together as a family.

The children have a charming, questioning attitude to the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Knowing that technology was more cumbersome and less user-friendly in the past, though, they think it will be hard to give up their computers and phones.

The family have seven computers and six TVs between them. Adam's computer and state-of-the-art TV are his pride and joy, whereas Georgie claims she is not hugely interested in technology. She still uses the internet for work and for socialising, though, and of course there's the mobile phone, the microwave, the dishwasher and the television. The children have access to a whole range of technologies and find it hard to imagine life without them.

Meet the tech team

The tech team will be guiding the family through their time-travel experience, making sure they are equipped with all the right mod cons at the right time. They will be on hand to help whenever the family needs advice – or simply when the VHS machine breaks on video night.

The tech team experts are: Gia Milinovich, a writer and presenter specialising in computer technology and new media; Dr Ben Highmore, a sociologist whose keen interest in the culture of everyday life has led him to write a book on the history of the British house; and Tom Wrigglesworth, a self-confessed gadget geek who knows all that's worth knowing about the evolution of technology in the home.

Electric Revolution season of programmes

Electric Dreams is part of Electric Revolution, a season of programmes giving viewers a unique insight into how developments in technology have shaped our lives over the past 40 years and charting the rise of today's globally linked, instantly gratified digital culture.

Other programmes in the season include: Micro Men, a single drama that provides an affectionately comic account of the race for home computer supremacy in the Eighties; Gameswipe With Charlie Brooker, a caustic, informative but ultimately affectionate analysis of the inner workings of the computer games industry; The Life And Death Of A Mobile Phone, a quirky look at what mobile phones must think of their owners' embarrassing calls and ill-advised texts; Upgrade Me, Simon Armitage's quest to uncover the mystery behind our obsession with technological upgrades; and The Podfather, the epic story behind the silicon chip's inventor who, according to some, remains the most important person most people have never heard of.

Electric Dreams is produced by Wall to Wall and was commissioned jointly by the Open University and the BBC.

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