Antenna Cable and Satellite


This week I will take on the role of a historian. Now I know most historians hang out at prestigious universities, wear cardigans and smoke a pipe but I have no time to change my fashion, so although I am wearing my spaghetti stained hoody, I will push my bifocals to the tip of my nose, and try to look intelligent.

The hidden purpose of my rambling this week is to explain to a younger generation why older adults like to binge watch television series and ignore your phone calls asking for money.

In a galaxy far away, at a time where black and white images were all that was transmitted through primitive airwaves, people enjoyed watching something called free television.   This was not easy to do in ancient times, as reception was poor, there were only a few TV stations broadcasting, and the remote control was not even conceived as a necessary gadget for television viewing.

Now each antique television set had a dial that was numbered 2 to 13, which allowed people to believe there were a lot of channels to choose. The truth was most areas were lucky if they could connect to five stations to fill their time between meals. The quality of reception of each station was based on the stretching capability of the attached antenna. This slowly acquired skill increased viewing pleasure as families learned to create the perfect antenna angle pointing towards the city you were tuning to for less snowy transmission. This technique may have involved something called the hypotenuse of the angle, but I was still only in grade school so I can’t confirm this.

Living in Oakville Ontario, was one of the luckiest accidents of my childhood. On a sunny day with an antenna stretched to its limits your Philco television could receive two TV stations from Toronto, one from Hamilton, and three from Buffalo. I believe this international access shaped me into the cosmopolitan adult I am today. I believe this also contributed to my early slender body shape as getting up from the floor to turn the knob from channel two to channel eleven every thirty minutes was exhausting like a step master workout without the monthly membership fee.

Allow me to lose my credibility for a moment. One day during the late 1960s we received one additional station. The CFL never allowed local stations to air the home team’s games. My dad was a Hamilton Tiger Cat fan, but never saw a home game on our television. If the Hamilton Tiger Cats were playing the Toronto Argonauts at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, we never saw that game either. Both Toronto and Hamilton were within my hometown’s black out area. If these games happened on consecutive weekends, we got screwed twice in one week. Now older married couples might not remember getting screwed twice in the same week, but overwhelming evidence from Masters and Johnson research suggests it did happen.

Back to that memorable day of new channel discovery.  My dad developed a solution to this archaic CFL blackout law. If one of his children (me), would take the rabbit ears, stand on a ladder and point that antenna to the highest part of our east facing window, we could get the Peterborough TV station. Because Peterborough was outside the black out area, getting that station meant that you got the local Hamilton football game. My toes still hurt from that three-hour pose.

If my parents had moved fifty miles north (kilometers had not been invented yet) my international personality would have been thwarted. You are asking how did television forge my well rounded personality? Okay you are not asking that, but since I have an answer to that unasked question, I will continue. Long before responsibility to “teach”, was protocol for children’s programming (Sesame Street wasn’t even a dirt road back then) Buffalo decided that Romper Room, Rocket Ship Seven and Commander Tom would pacify the young ones before and after school. Toronto tried to compete with Uncle Bobby and the Friendly Giant, but without access to violent cartoons and reality shows, like The Adventures of Superman, Canadian TV didn’t stand a chance to get the kid’s attention.

Not all memories of my TV childhood were wonderful.   I recall vividly a weekend in late November 1963 that might have been the worst television weekend of my life. The children in our house had a very rigid Saturday morning routine. My parents would sleep in, and each child would wake up, go to the room that had the TV, and watch cartoons until the adults had woken up. All the networks knew this and by law, could only broadcast animated programs Saturday mornings. On this cold November morning every station violated our cartoon covenant. Some president in the USA had been assassinated and all broadcasters thought little children would be interested in this news. Non-cartoon news from places like Dallas, Washington and New York, replaced Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and Popeye. No matter which station we turned to, the message was the same… “No cartoons this morning children, now go wake up your parents.” Youth around the world correctly remember this as the Kennedy Conspiracy.

Sometime later in history, technologies like Cable TV and Satellite TV revolutionized the viewing habits of the fixated TV audience. Options expanded from 8 stations to 1,304. The remote control finally arrived with stipulations that only males were allowed to touch this dangerous device. This caused a male obesity problem we are still addressing today. Specialty channels like the Fishing channel, The Chess Channel and the Fireplace Channel catered to the sophisticated habits and moods of discerning individual viewers. Computers got into the game, and today the accepted “On Demand” approach has replaced the “On for Free” approach. This technology boom was not as idyllic as I am suggesting, as impatient consumers waited all day for their TV technician to arrive and update their home boxes. This ridiculous waiting period, infringed heavily on that days potential  TV consumption.

Family financial planning got more complex as cable bills bled into your grocery budget. People had to decide whether to eat or watch TV. Neilson ratings would suggest there were a lot hungry people watching a lot of TV.

Soon another unpredicted strain of the family budget emerged. Condominiums were being erected without the aid of Viagra, and a frenzy last seen during the early hey day of Beatlemania began. New homeowners got caught in the euphoria of this construction boom and now had a condo fee added to their expanding budgets. With this mysterious new monthly fee added to a crippling mortgage, confused parents were forced to abandon enrolling children into finishing school to upgrade their manners.

Well the silent majority decided that if we were going to pay for transmission, damn it we are going to watch even more TV. Like Workaholics, Shopaholics and Foodaholics the TVaholics learned to binge watch without any purging. A season of a series, with carefully planned bathroom breaks and calling in sick for work, could be watched in a single day.

Houses in neighbourhoods began to have all the blinds down for days, as inhabitants watched series after series. Families now were feeling a strong sense of completion. They also were able to talk intelligently at cocktail parties regardless of what hip new deeply buried cable offering was gaining an audience.

A new test, or is that pattern, it certainly isn’t test pattern, emerged as people tried to find series with subtitles, coming from countries they could not pronounce, to get ahead of what might be the next “Breaking Bad”.   BBC documentaries or reality shows from Iceland started trending on Twitter.

Once again I have reached the point where I should end this random rant, and once again, I have no way to end. To help me conclude, once again here is another made up conversation that never occurred at that coffee shop down the road from where I live. No not that coffee shop, the other one directly across the street from that one you are trying to imagine.

Guy with the baseball hat: Hey Jim did you see last night’s episode of Kuwait’s Got Talent? 

Guy without the baseball hat: Damn, I was watching the Build Your own Deck Without Using Nails station, but I PVRed it. Was it good?

Guy with the baseball hat: Good??? There was a 10 year-old girl who played the zither, and I cried every minute of her performance! 

Guy without the baseball hat: Zither? I love that instrument. What song did she play? Not that it would matter, every song sounds great on a zither. 

Guy with the baseball hat: It was either the Theme to Rocky or Stairway to Heaven, it was hard to hear, I was too emotional.

Guy without the baseball hat:
Lets hurry up and drink our coffees, I want to get home watch that and remember, today is the day I dedicated to binge watch Honey Boo Boo and The Beachcombers so don’t call me until Thursday!

This week’s blong connection was a struggle.  Since the title has about Three Words in it, this offering will have to do.

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