The Six Million Dollar Man first aired in 1974, at a time when American self-esteem was at an all time low, and the country felt like it was circling the toilet bowl. Watergate was in full effect. The U.S. had left Vietnam ignominiously. The Energy Crisis was underway. Gas rationing was introduced. Inflation was skyrocketing. The CIA and FBI were being publicly disgraced, and Gerald Ford was tripping down the steps and pardoning Nixon.
Kids may not have understood all of this, but they understood enough of it.
We may still have been ahead in the space race with the USSR, but the truth is things were pretty quiet on the space technology front as well by 1974; they weren’t even putting men on the moon anymore.
America may not have been winning on too many fronts, but it was winning on one important front–the bionic front.
You see, long before there was the personal computer, there was the bionic man.
Before there was Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, there was Oscar Goldman and Rudy Wells. Jobs was the ideas man, and Woz was the technician who could build it. Oscar Goldman was the ideas man, and Rudy Wells was the physician who could rebuild Steve Austin.
The average Six Million Dollar Man fans in 1973-4 would have been in the 7-10 age bracket and would have been big believers in the art of the possible and the benevolent promise of technology. Like children before them, they would have dreamed of miracle inventions straight out of science fiction books being created in their lifetimes that would let them do things that no human could ever dream of doing before.
But even in their wildest escapist dreams, none of them believed there could ever be anything remotely like an iPhone. Not really. Oh sure, they might have believed that at some point in the future they would be wearing some kind of telephone wristwatch with a little TV screen on it, but that was about it. Most of them thought they’d have bionic arms before they had anything like the iPhone.
Sometimes, life imitates art. Sometimes, reality is the most potent drug of all. Steve Jobs understood that. Oscar Goldman understood that.