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Notel comic by Stuart McMillen: black and white title text.
Chemical Brothers Exit Planet Dust album cover tribute: young couple walking along the side of a road, with a car passing by. Cartoon parody of Chemical Brothers artwork.
Cartoon family in dark room watching TV. In 1973, television was the #1 leisure activity in North America. Most people watched multiple hours of TV per day.
Cartoon Tannis MacBeth drawing. Tannis MacBeth was a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who wondered if television was having an impact on the individuals and communities who watched it. She also felt that her predecessors had missed the opportunity to scientifically study the impact of television.
Psychologists had been caught flat-footed when television was introduced to North America in the 1950s. They had failed to design experiments that would measure the ‘before’ and ‘after’ effects of television.
Cartoon family watching TV in a dark room. By the time psychologists realised the social significance of television, the vast majority of the population was already habitually viewing TV. Many fundamental questions about television were unanswered, but it seemed that there were no non-viewers left in North America.
Cartoon of woman reading a newspaper in office near bookshelf. All hope seemed lost, until Tannis MacBeth received the surprising news that there was still a North American town without television, and that it was right in her backyard. Located in the east of British Columbia, the town’s television reception was blocked by the Rocky Mountains that surrounded it.
Tannis MacBeth was thrilled to learn about this town, but alarmed to learn that the town was slated to receive television transmission before the end of the year. Tannis and her team scrambled to design a scientific experiment. For anonymity and privacy, they dubbed the town ‘Notel‘ in all future publications.
Side view of woman driving a car cartoon. Lady driving a car viewed from the passenger seat side. Tannis MacBeth drove from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains, and thought about her unique research opportunity. The deadline was looming: Notel was set to receive TV transmission ahead of the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup championship in November 1973.
1973 was prior to the availability of home video players, or video games. Without TV reception in the Seventies, there was simply no way to use your television for entertainment. And so, Notel’s residents had to do other things with their free time.
High angle view of car driving through a mountain road, surrounded by forest trees. This was a never-to-be-repeated research opportunity. In scientific terminology, it was a natural experiment, because the researchers were not manipulating the scenario at all. The Rocky Mountains were creating the conditions that differentiated the town from the rest of North America.
Importantly, this wasn't a town of kooky fringe-dwellers, or holdouts. The residents actively wanted television. It was a geographic anomaly, rather than their convictions that kept Notel residents from watching TV.
Notel was a typical Canadian town, minus television. Main street of Rocky Mountains town.
Cartoon of man crossing the street walking a dog, near British Columbia Government Liquor sign.
Tannis MacBeth and the UBC team arrived in Notel in its final fall without TV reception. 21 years behind the debut of CBC Television, Notel's situation was like visiting a town in 2018 without internet access.
With a population of 658, Notel was the largest sizeable North American community without television. The UBC researchers embedded themselves into the community, as they conducted their preliminary research. Life without television—unimaginable to most people—was everyday reality for the townsfolk. Tannis and her colleagues were fascinated to learn what the residents did with their time, compared to the rest of the continent.
Close up of woman’s face, looking surprised. As they visited the residents’ homes, they often noticed television sets that were ready and waiting.
Family members sitting on the floor, playing a board game together. Though useless now, the residents were planning ahead for the introduction of television.
Station wagon car driving through Canadian main street. Tannis MacBeth and her colleagues finished their preliminary research, and headed back to Vancouver.
Man watching a worker unload TVs from the back of a delivery truck. It would be over two years until they next visited Notel for their second phase of research. TV was coming soon. It was the talk of the town.
Surprised woman driving a car, looking in the rear vision mirror. Tannis suspected that the next time she visited, things would be different in Notel.
Cartoon illustration of children playing on jungle gym viewed through a rear vision mirror.
Cartoon illustration of children playing on jungle gym viewed through a rear vision mirror.Cartoon illustration of children playing on jungle gym viewed through a rear vision mirror.Cartoon illustration of children playing on jungle gym viewed through a rear vision mirror.Cartoon illustration of children playing on jungle gym viewed through a rear vision mirror.

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23 May 2020

Your illustrations are perfect. I grew up in small-town western Canada during the 1970s, and the clothes, cars, buildings, even the interiors look like photos from my childhood.


26 March 2019

Did you forget about the sequels?

Erika Boyce

5 December 2018

You have real talent!! I enjoy how you connect the message with thoughtful insight into the mind of the main characters. I look forward to reading more!

Reginald Pettus

20 March 2018

I found your page today and doth enjoyed it.

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