When I hurried into our living room the other afternoon to turn on the television, I was just in time to catch the beginning of the ballgame. The TV lit up as soon as I pressed the button on the remote control unit.
Later, I got to reminiscing about the good old days, which, when it comes to television, weren’t so good after all. Decades ago, I would have missed the opening kickoff of that game because the television set would have taken 30 seconds or so to warm up and come on.
Remember those days? Return with me to those thrilling days of yesteryear as we try to watch TV.
Turn the volume knob to “on” and the screen would stay black for some time before brightening up to a picture – a black-and-white picture, at that. The chances were, some adjusting would be needed to make the program watchable. Each set had a number of controls in back or on the side, the two most maddening of which were for “vertical hold” and “horizontal hold.”
Vertical hold would stop the picture from rolling up or down endlessly, like the frames in a home movie that comes off a sprocket. Horizontal hold would stop the show from scrambling into an undecipherable mess.
Most sets back then had a knob to select the channels. It listed channels 2-13, although, most of those numbers were a waste of space. We received three channels, at the 3, 9 and 12 positions, from the big antenna my father had installed at the top of a long steel pipe outside our window.
To select the right channel – are you taking notes, kiddies? – we would have to get up, walk across the room and rotate the knob. Channel surfing wasn’t an option. When a commercial came on, we sat through it and wondered why there wasn’t a way to change channels remotely.
After an evening of staring at that 21-inch screen, we had to go to bed because television programming ended after the late news, or perhaps the late, late movie. Each station would sign off for the night with a few words telling where it broadcast from.
Some stations would then show a test pattern, which as I recall included the head of an Indian chief; once again, I’m not sure why. Others would show Old Glory and play the national anthem or, particularly in later years, perform High Flight, the poem associated with the Air Force.
When we turned the volume knob off, the screen would go black except for a bright dot of light in the middle of the screen. As the picture tube cooled down, the dot would dim and finally fade out.
Many things over the years have changed for the worse, but you know, I wouldn’t trade my remote control for anything.