Where’s the Indian Head Test Pattern when you need it?
I subscribe to Time Warner for my television viewing pleasure. I really don’t have a choice, that’s the cable provider offered in my community. I hate paying to watch my own TV but it is what it is. I do like being able to watch the Chicago stations like WGN though, as well as Milwaukee.
Right now Time Warner is in contract negotiations with Chicago Channel 2 CBS and also Milwaukee’s TMJ 4.
All three have posted their angry accusations about how the other guy is unfair, bullheaded, closed-minded and greedy.
To be honest, I just don’t care. When I grew up we had five channels to choose from. And that depended on the weather. We were able to get Channel 2, 5, 7, 9 and 13 from Rockford. Once in a while we got Channel 23 from downstate Illinois. But if it was raining, forget it.
When my parents were in bed, we would try to see “Playboy After Dark” on Channel 32, broadcast from Peoria. We thought we were going to see something really dirty. In between the snow and static on the screen, all we could make out was an adult cocktail party, with men dressed in business suits and Playboy Bunnies waitressing. And everyone was smoking and drinking. That was as close as we ever came to seeing something naughty on TV, unless you count the Three Stooges…But that’s another story!
Back in the day it was a big process just to capture those regular TV channels. We had a tall, 40-foot rotary antenna tower. And the clicker.
You know, the brown box with a big knob. You turned the knob in the direction you wanted the antennae to turn, to “catch the signals” from the TV station. It took forever. You could crank it pretty fast, but it would only move one click at a time. And there was no guarantee you would even be able to pick up a TV signal once you got pointed in that direction. Then you had turn it back the other way.
My dad used this to his advantage. He would send us outside and tell us to watch the antennae to make sure it was moving. My sisters and I set up a fire brigade for communication. One would be stationed by the front door, getting updates from dad. The next sister would be halfway between the house and front yard and the last sister would be around the side of the house looking up at the tower.
It went something like this: “Is it working?” Repeat two more times. Answer: “Dad says no.” Repeat two more times.
This went on for about 30 minutes until we threatened a mutiny. I think he kept it going just to see how long we would stand out there.
TV was a lot of work back then. In addition to using the clicker, we were the designated channel turners. There was no remote control back then. One of us would have to stand up by the TV and change channels, while dad took in each show, deciding which one he wanted. He would have us go forward, then backwards, the forward again, until he found the perfect cowboy show.
In addition, most of the stations went off at 1 a.m. There would be an announcement that broadcasting was concluding for the day, and then a picture would flash Good Night. Next you would get the National Anthem, then the Indian Head Test Pattern. That was it until 6 a.m. Just that test pattern and a spooky hissing sound. The only time we got to see the Indian Head Test Pattern was if we had stayed up late enough watch Creature Features on Saturday night.
We lived out in the country so even when they started putting cable in, it would never reach us. That’s when my parents decided to invest in a Betamax. It was cutting edge technology, all for $2,000.
It was a big deal back then and we thought we were ready for NASA to sign us up. We used to tape movies, with disastrous results. There was a remote control attached to a long cord that went to the Betamax. We were supposed to stop recording at the commercials, then start it up again when the movie started. Of course, we always forgot to restart, so many of our taped movies were missing up to 30 minutes of the show.
So, when people talk about having two channels blocked, I don’t feel deprived. After growing up with five channels and Jiffy Pop popcorn, I don’t think this is a tragedy. I think we get more than 100 channels at the house and have some fancy remote control that does everything but change its own batteries. It’s just ridiculous.
While I sympathize with the corporate giants all I can say is…”Frankly my dear, I don’t give a dam.”