Car headrests were new – they minimised whiplash, but could they also encourage a snooze at the wheel? “They can reduce driving fatigue on long journeys if comfortably adjusted.”
On doorstep salesmen: “A man’s home is his castle, but he needs a moat and portcullis to protect himself from the uninvited persuasive pitches of aggressive doorstep salesmen.”
“Whisky – is it Scotch or Australian?” We taste-tested eight top-selling Scottish and local products and asked a panel to tell the difference. “Despite the conditioning that the only whisky is Scotch, some Australian whiskies tasted better than imagined and some Scotch whiskies worse.”
Plastic lavatory seats came under our eagle eye, with 13 brands tested for strength and durability, and ease of cleaning and installation. We argued the virtues of a semi-rigid vs rigid plastic seat.
We bemoaned the fact that 2000 air miles from Darwin to Singapore cost $185, while 7000 miles from Singapore to London cost as little as $145. “With Qantas’ proposed airfare of $700 return, we look forward to the establishment of honest, realistic prices for air travel.”
We devoted half our September issue to gas stoves – no knob was left unturned. And 23 pages of January peered into freezers.
ACA sounded the alarm bells on advertising in children’ s TV programs. “These days,” we declared, “children can sing the advertising jingles on radio and television long before they learn in school that two plus two equals four.”
Packaged cheesecakes succumbed to “tempting tests”. “The housewife who is short of time and doesn’t mind paying extra for convenience may be interested in serving a frozen cheesecake.” Our recommended cake “was the panel’s out-and-out favourite and nutritionally good, as well”. Never mind the fat content.
And, aiming to reduce our waistlines, we donned sauna shorts, some of which were inflatable. We had “amazing results” in terms of weight loss, but concluded it was water, not fat, that was shed.
“The ever-increasing costs of a bottle of beer, combined with the never-decreasing thirst of Australians, has revived interest in home brewing.” So we brewed up a storm of our own, using our very own recipe and separately bought (not kit) ingredients. “Our beer was clear, had a good head and was rated highly,” we boasted.
Green themes revealed some early shoots. “The ecologically concerned consumer is emerging, who considers value for money and the cost to the environment before he buys … Like charity, responsibility fo r the future of our environment begins at home.”
The Bleeper Electronic Golf Ball Set, which helped you locate lost balls, belonged in the rough, as far as we were concerned. Instead of paying a hefty $22 for the transmitter (in the ball) and receiver, you’d be better off buying regular balls at $1 each, we suggested.
ACA made its first submission to federal parliament for a National Commission for Consumer Affairs to coordinate consumer issues.
We were on a roll, with about 130,000 members and rising ... “Subscription and mailing procedures are so large that computer services are necessary.” And rising wages, postage and printing costs prompted subscriptions to rocket from $5 to $10.
We evaluated touch-typing courses. “If you take a night course, you should be typing 45-50 words per minute by the end of the year.” We also suggested mastering typewriter maintenance.
“Grow amazing live sea monkeys,” said the ads. “Just add water!” We exposed the ruse: they were actually brine shrimp eggs, for years raised as food for tropical fish.
DIY was all the rage. We tested heavy-duty electric drills costing $50, and put portable electric circular saws through their paces.
The Crock-Pot made its debut – and so, too, did the working wife.
“It must be classified as a non-essential appliance because most people already have an adequate oven, but it might be useful for a working couple, as meals can be left in reasonable safety to cook all day.”
Colour TV flickered into life: “The most complicated piece of equipment in the household,” we said, so little wonder the sets carried a daunting $900 price tag. Meanwhile, sales of the electronic calculator had “skyrocketed” due to a drop in prices.
We trumpeted the virtues of the Trade Practices Act 1974. “One of the most important pieces of legislation for consumers in Australia … to control restrictive trade practices and monopolisation and protect from unfair commercial practices.”
We got merry testing gins: “If you’re adding a mixer, go for the cheapest; differences in expensive gins will not be noticeable.”
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) food labels were on the table. We advised against them.
“The great Australian meat pie is dead,” we declared, “replaced by the great Australian gravy pie.” ACA surveyed meat pies from all around Australia and, very sad to say, we had difficulty finding any meat in them.
Our June editorial explained how “computerised checkout systems in supermarkets may become commonplace within the next few years.”
We warned of “a new supermarket rip-off”, because this technology made it easy for supermarkets to flog old stock at new prices.
We spoke out against “more than a million tonnes of waste packaging per year”, urging readers to reject overpackaged goods, buy products with reusable packages and use their own bags to cut down on plastic bags.
Always keen to cater to rural readers, we put barbed wire to the test, comparing 17 products for barbs, galvanising and cost, concluding thin is best.
Moving with the times, we argued that, in de facto relationships, the parties were in a less advantageous position than their married counterparts.
Technology was on the march. First up, we were ho-hum over digital watches. “They ’ve burst on the scene … digital watches are an acquired taste.” And microwave ovens were put to the test, as “the number used in the home has been rising rapidly”.
We also turned up the volume on AM/FM cassette recorders. “You’d think Australians want nothing but cassette recorders. There are rows of them with the fashionable military look.”
Still in warrior mode, we tested 15 tomahawks, conceding “most are not manufactured with safety in mind”.
CHOICE called for goods containing asbestos to carry warnings of the dangers of even minimal handling.
“Because of ACA, we have a Trade Practices Act,” we said, referring consumer complaints elsewhere so we could “concentrate on testing and reporting”.
The first tests for the year were certainly not glamorous: chemical toilets and compost bins, together with hints on how to make good compost.
Pocket cameras were taking the market by storm. We didn’t question their convenience, merely their image-taking, finding they weren’t up to 35mm.
We minced, chopped, grated, whipped and pureed as we explored the virtues of a new appliance, the multi-purpose kitchen machine (aka ‘food processor’). We found it did the lot and more besides, without lots of clumsy attachments.
And we took the Big Three cars for a spin: Holden, Falcon and Valiant. While originally aiming to test just fuel consumption, we went along for the ride, evaluating everything from handbrake performance to heater controls.
We sent out a call to members, asking them to complete the Reliability and Servicing Survey, covering washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers and deep freezers. “We need information from everybody, regardless of how reliable or unreliable their major household appliances have been,” we urged.
Going green was picking up momentum. “The world’s fossil fuels are being consumed at an ever-increasing rate and will be exhausted.” So began our report on solar water heating for the pool and home.
It was crunch time as a favourite of ours, breakfast cereals, had their first outing – and one had 52.2% sugar! “Who would guess the family breakfast table is responsible for more dental cavities than you can point a sticky finger at?”
Bankcard had billings of $1222m in 1978, so we examined plastic money, “a 20th-century phenomenon”. “There are about two million regular credit card users and by this time next year, there will be a further 500,000.”
We tested video games: “Electronic games, first offered to patrons of penny arcades, are now in a domestic package that simply connects to your TV antenna socket.”
In our “Novice Gardener’s Guide to Buying Indoor Plants”, we gave the green light to kentia palms, maidenhair ferns and philodendrons as the means to “add colour, beauty and variety to your home”.
With the return economy airfare to London a hefty $1880, most people kept their feet on the ground. Fares were set by IATA (International Air Transport Association) or between governments. “Once fares have been approved, different fares are illegal,” we advised readers.