Which? magazine – the consumers’ champion
Which? magazine is published by the Consumers’ Association and first appeared in 1957. Its aim, then as now, is to provide impartial, independent reviews and testing of consumer products. Since it was first published Which? has been a library staple, consulted by people in search of the best products and those to avoid.
We have a complete set of Which? in the reserve store at the Information and Reference Library. The first issue is dog-eared, monochrome and only has 32 pages. It contains reports about electric kettles, sunglasses, and no-iron cottons. The current issue (April 2019) is larger, glossier and in full colour and has reports on vacuum cleaners, broadband, and wireless speakers.
Going through these older issues provides an interesting snapshot of consumer trends and fads.
Which? in the 1960s
Issues from the 1960s, when the throwaway society was at its height, contain reports on paper knickers (August 1969) and paper dresses (August 1967).
May 1960 also saw the first report on TV sets. There were issues over humming and buzzing noises, and problems with interference and the largest screen available was only a mere 21 inches. Prices ranged from £59 to £72. The January 1968 issue saw a report on colour TV sets. These first sets were very unreliable and Which? recommended renting rather than buying. They were bulky, stood on spindly legs and had no remote control, but then there were only three channels to choose from so channel hopping wasn’t really possible. Contrast this with the latest Which? report in the September 2018 issue. The TVs range in price from £349-£2249 and the largest is a whooping 65 inches.
Which? in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s
The issues from the 1970s have reports on convenience meals (March 1977), solar water heating (August 1977) – perhaps the long hot summer of 1976 made this seem like a viable option – holidays in Spain (January 1972) and decimalisation (November 1970).
The 1980s sees the first reports on compact discs (August 1983), on cellular phones (September 1989), and on the first debit card (October 1987) – Which? was sceptical about its usefulness.
In the 1990s there were reports on the Millennium bug (May 1999) and the Internet (July 1995) – the report said “Everyone seems to be talking about the Internet. Is it just the latest trendy craze for computer buffs, or does it have a wider appeal?”
Which? in the 21st century
Which? continues to keep up to date with the latest technology covering smartphone, tablets, wireless printers, bluetooth headsets, smart homes, etc. Which? first appeared in the days long before before the internet age and of consumers being able to post reviews online but it still has a role providing impartial advice to consumers and ensuring that we don’t waste our hard-earned cash.
Going through the old issues gives you a sense that even though there have been some amazing developments lots of day to day life remains the same. Sixty plus years on people are still searching for the best vacuum cleaner and washing machine!
As a subscriber we have access to Which? online and we can log library users on so that they can use it via the People’s Network terminals.