Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remotely Interesting

Primal wrote about giving up TV Tuesday and it made me think of my own viewing habits.

I shared that I actually watch quite a bit of network programming online sans the commercials and on my timetable. It’s a great alternative. This whole writers’ strike business may put the kibosh on that soon however.

When I was eight or so, I got an old hand me down black and white for my bedroom. That’s right folks. I had my own TV.

I was popular for a good week and a half.

To my own children, this story is not a big deal. They’ve never even seen a black and white TV and-the spoiled brats-they’ve always had one in their room.

I guess this is proof in the pudding that we as Americans are an overindulged and lazy lot. I wonder how many TV sets the average American have in their home? I guess I could look it up, but I’m disinclined being lazy and overindulged and all.

The big thing here is that there was no remote. We didn’t even know what a remote was since they hadn’t been invented yet. As a matter of fact, Bubby and I were the remote control. Any time a parental unit would want the channel changed or the volume turned up, we would get our little fannies off the couch and do it for them. And we had to be quick about it. If Dad missed something because we didn’t get up fast enough there would be hell to pay.

Changing the channel also required grabbing a knob and turning. There was a satisfying ‘Chunk, Chunk’ noise that went with changing the channel. You couldn’t change the channel too fast or you’d get yelled at.

Don’t turn that knob so fast- you’ll break it!

So we had to very slowly and carefully turn the knob. Then we had to adjust the volume until it was just perfect for the folks. This could take several passes. While you were there it was often necessary to adjust the vertical or horizontal lines that would blip across the screen. This would require using yet another knob or perhaps a little wheel across the bottom of the panel.

The rabbit ears also need adjusting and sometimes we would have to stand by the TV holding the foil covered antennae. This was usually at a crucial point in the news or Little House on the Prairie. If we moved, the picture would go fuzzy and there would be that aforementioned hell to pay.

We were always tempted to sit very close to the TV. This wasn’t because we couldn’t see or couldn't hear. It was simply a matter of logistics. We didn’t have far to travel if our channel changing skills were called upon. This however didn’t fly with Prissy, because sitting that close to the TV was obviously bad for your eyes and we’d go blind. And when the color TV finally came around, it could explode and kill us if we sat that close. (Much the same as eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke simultaneously would cause certain death.)

When turning off the TV, you’d have a high-pitched whining noise that continued for several minutes after you turned the thing off. This was a sure sign it was cooling off. The whining was often accompanied by cracks and pops. Then. Finally. That little dot in the center of the screen would fade and disappear.

There were only three stations available back in the day-four if you were in an area that got PBS. Then you could watch educational programming. I learned to count to ten in Spanish by watching Sesame Street and I did not take up smoking by watching Alistair Cookie smoke a cookie pipe and then eat it.

This is a sad reflection on today’s society.

But the topic here is the TV itself. I very rarely make a statement that is remotely (ah, no pun intended) political or controversial. I’m not that blogger.

...and I won’t start now. So what is viewed isn’t my topic as much as the device itself.

Nowadays the television comes in forms and sizes galore. You can HDTV yourself into a stupor-surround yourself with surround sound. Record what you what when you want it.

You don’t have to wait for The Wizard of Oz to come around once a year and mesmerize you in black and white. You can watch it anytime. In color. You can adjust the volume from across the house and stop and start the action at will.

…without getting up.

My boys sit across the room and several feet from the TV.

This is good. You never know when that thing might blow.


Anonymous said...

... wonderfully written..... and yeah, you are right..... I was once a "remote control" as well when I was a wee nipper.....

.... we had one of those gigantic Magnavox things which was a TV but had an 8-track player hidden in one end and a record player on the other end.... looked like a 10-foot long piece of furniture, it did.....

Eric of SWG

Sugar Britches said...

Oh yeah, Eric. The console television! We had one similar, and boy howdy, did we think we were uptown. The speaker inserts had this awful harvest gold carpet type fabric as a protective covering. It sold at a yard sale about 10 years ago. The lady bought it because the 8-track worked.

...too funny.

pamibe said...

That really took me back; thanks for the journey! :)

Bou said...

I remember watching the Olympics on one of those little black and whites. Honestly, I think my folks still had it. And it had 'UHF'. Do they still have 'UHF' on TVs? And at midnight, all TVs went off with the Star Spangled Banner (midnight or thereabouts) and there were only cartoons on Saturday mornings. My kids are so spoiled. They have access to 24 hour cartoons on myriad channels. Cartoons were a treat when we were kids... Sat mornings only and it was something we looked forward to. "Tomorrow morning is Saturday! Yippee!" and I can still sing those songs, "Conjunction, junction, what's your function?"

Excellent post! It brought back so many memories.... obviously. ;-)

Sugar Britches said...

pamibe and bou- Thanks for stopping by!

I had forgotton all about the UHF/VHF thing. I don't think they even exist anymore.

Saturday morning cartoons in your pj's eating a big bowl of cereal. This was your time while the folks slept in.

And speaking of Conjunction Junction...I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill and I'm sitting here on capital(ol?) hill.

I also remember pre-cable very vividly. Even when it was around my Mom wouldn't hear of paying for TV. So instead of MTV, I waited all week for Friday Night Videos. That blind girl sculpting a bust of Lionel Richie in Hello still makes my little 80's girl heart melt.


Elisson said...

We had one of those old B&W "console" model TV's - it actually had a wireless remote control (major technology back then) that used ultrasonic signals. I figured that out when I discovered that banging my silverware together just right could change the channel. I also discovered that I could change the channel by whistling though my teeth. Fun!

Erica said...

"Then. Finally. That little dot in the center of the screen would fade and disappear."

I hadn't thought of that little dot in the longest time! But it was as integral a part of the the whole 1970s/1980s television watching experience as The Dukes of Hazzard and Incredible Hulk on Friday nights, or The Muppets, Carol Burnett, and Benny Hill on Saturday Nights.

In a way, I miss it. The knobs, the snow, the rolling pictures, slamming your fist on the top of the set, all of it.

I would gladly trade in all the high-tech gewgaws, remotes, speakers, digital cable, and waste of time programming, in general, just to be able to sit and watch Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller re-runs again.

That was some seriously good stuff, and, like Eric said, "...wonderfully written....."


Sugar Britches said...

Elisson- My God, Man. You made me squirt Dr. Pepper through my nose you made me laugh so hard!

Erica- Here was my Saturday night line up. Keep in mind I was 12-13 years old.

5:00 Fame reruns
6:00 Hee Haw
7:00 The Barbara Mandrell Show
8:00 The Love Boat
9:00 Fantasy Island
10:00 The Benny Hill Show (watched on the sly. Prissy hated that show!)
10:30 Saturday Night Live

Midnight and beyond you could catch 'raslin'' if you were so inclined. And, unfortunately, I was.

I don't know what is sadder the fact I remember this or the fact that I did it.

I am a voracious reader, I really am.

Jim - PRS said...

And, when the Chunk, Chunk, Chunk knob broke (presumably from turning it too fast), we kept a pair of pliers on top of the TV for use in channel changing.

Jim - PRS

Sugar Britches said...

Jim, we kept pliers around for a lot of things. The knob on the stove for one.
...and duct tape always duct tape.