Inside looking out: TV technomania
The technology of television is a problem for those of us who grew up watching black and white TV.
I remember my father telling me to stand next to the screen and steady my hand on the vertical hold dial to stop the picture from flipping up and down so he could watch Mickey Mantle bat for the Yankees.
Everyone had metal antennas on tops of their roofs, too. My father got the bright idea to take ours down and put it in the attic. So I’m up there one day with my hand on the antenna rods while my father’s in the living room, and together, we’re trying to clear the static from the TV picture.
“Move it to the left,” he shouted. “No that’s too far. Back to the right a little. Too much! You had it and lost it. Left, left. Stop. Right there. Wait! Static is back again. Go right. I mean left!” Once I held the antenna still while he watched the 6 o’clock news.
In those days, televisions had channel dials, and when my sisters, my parents and I settled in to watch something, the argument was always the same.
“Somebody get up and turn the channel. I don’t want to watch this,” said my father.
“It’s your turn to get up and do it,” I said to my sister who was stretched out on the floor.
“No way,” she said. “I did it twice in a row yesterday. I’m not doing it again.”
The evolution of televisions moved at a pace much faster than our understanding. Cable companies hawked 200 channels and I thought, “Well, what good is that when I can only watch one at a time and never, ever would I watch all 200. Adding certain packages to the basic cable deal and the monthly bill skyrocketed from 40 bucks to a hundred and a half. Now I pay twice the amount of the monthly mortgage payment we had for our house back in the ’60s.
Streaming is the current hot idea, and cable TV may soon become something millennials will reminisce over at their high school reunions.
I just purchased a streaming device called Roku. I’m a die-hard New York Mets fan, and to watch them from Northeast Pennsylvania, I discovered I needed some kind of gadget to see my team.
So let’s get to the “easy” installation of a Roku stick, which is about 4 inches long. Plug it right into the USB port in the back of the TV. Now my TV is mounted on the wall with a bout a 6-inch gap. To plug in the stick, I have to squeeze my arm into this gap, reach way in and feel for the port because I cannot see behind the TV and plug in the stick at the same time.
This procedure took me about 15 minutes before I had success. Feel around. Miss the port. Miss again and again. Drop the stick. Get the flashlight to see where it fell. My arm got tired. Several more tries, and by some luck I finally pushed in the Roku.
The fun had just begun.
The setup would take me to a user name and password required after a special code was typed into my computer. Now I am notoriously bad at remembering user names and passwords. I don’t write them down on a list, so it is a problem caused by my careless approach to these things.
None of my names and passwords worked. Just before I quit to “wine” the rest of the night, I got this brilliant idea to call my cable company.
They said I needed a user name and password from them, and that’s why none of mine worked. I didn’t feel so stupid anymore. Back to the setup, and the Roku home page suddenly appeared!
To get my Mets, I had to go through something called Fubo that put me onto an NBC Sports application that required a secret code of some sort that took me to a monthly subscription free trial that took me to SNY that was the Mets network that took me to a second glass of wine.
Now I can talk to my remote and tell my Roku stick which one of the channels I placed into my menu I want to watch. For some reason I’ve yet to determine, turning Roku on and off is still a mystery.
They say that a 3D TV is the next techno craze. Viewers will be able walk around the picture that’s projected into the middle of a room. I’ll get to step right through a gunfight at the OK Corral.
I’m impressed with myself that I’ve lived within a time span of TV rabbit ears to flat-screen high-definition pixels. I remember the TV repairman coming to our house when I was a kid, and now it’s the cable guy who knocks on the door. I guess that means I’m old.
One thing still puzzles me though. When TVs had just six working channels, I could always find something to keep my interest, and now with hundreds of program choices, well, there are many nights when there is nothing to keep my tired eyes open.
I guess I’ll have to add another hundred channels and hope for the best.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.