Monday, July 23, 2012


When we were first married, we didn't own a television set. My bride and I were in college, both of us working part-time, and our lives were full, so watching TV was way down the list.

The first set we got was after we moved to L.A., an old black-and-white, belonged to my Okinawa-te teacher, I think he let us have for ten bucks. Of course, back then ten bucks was equivalent to what, two million today ... ? (Actually, the calculator says $62.50, which was a goodly chunk, since I was earning about $500 a month back then.)

We got it because the moon landing was going to be televised and we wanted to see it, and that's easy to date: 1969. The screen on it was smaller than that of the computer monitor upon which I am working. Didn't have remote–you got up, walked to it, and changed channels or adjusted the sound or picture image manually. 

After that set croaked, we didn't replace it for several years. 

When the summer Olympics arrived in 1972, we decided to get a new TV to watch that, and did. Since then, we've had a TV in the house, and upgraded them usually every eight or so years to keep up with the Olympics.

Somewhere along the way, operations changed. Back in the day, if your TV faded to noise, you could open the back, remove the tubes, toodle on over to the 7-Eleven, and use a machine to test them. Find the burned-out tube, you could buy one, go home and replace it, and keep the sucker running. Solid-state solved that burn-out problem, save for the picture tube itself, but if something went out, that was it, it was dead, Jim. (My parents still have the first TV they bought in 1953. It was in a console that became part of the hi-fi furniture. Hasn't worked for decades, but it is still there, another TV perched on top of it.)

For the 2004 games, we got a big honker–a 40" square block that weighed a couple hundred pounds. Installed it in a cabinet with doors and when we weren't watching it, shut the doors and had a nice piece of furniture, made by, of all people, the Amish. Irony, anybody?

This set seemed to be one we'd keep until it died; however, we noticed that with the most common 16:9 ratio of screens in movies and digital broadcasting, our square block started looking pretty sad. Words onscreen got smaller and cut-off on both sides of the picture. The scores for basketball games shrank in size, to take advantage of the high-definition cast, and became unreadable. Like owning a really old computer, it worked, but the new software wouldn't work on it, and the Olympics are coming up ...

All of which to say is we got a new TV. Not the top of the line, and certainly not the largest  one available, but the difference between it and the old one is major. The old one? Like watching it with vaseline smeared on our glasses. The new one is like looking through a window. As George Takei's commercial said, "Oh, my!"

The amusing thing is, there aren't any tubes in it. The screen is run by LEDs and the whole thing is a couple inches thick. And we can see stuff we never knew about before:

Look, baby, you can see what color his eyes are!

That's not a cap he's wearing, it's a sweatband and his hair!

Look at that bird in the background, is that Red-tailed hawk ... ?

Even the Subway commercials are interesting to watch. And of course, you can stream video from your home wifi, rent movies online, plug in a flashdrive and view your pictures, and even check your email if you have a mind to do that. 

Here it is, the future again. 

Great way to turn yourself into a big ole couch potato, a new TV ...


Daniel Keys Moran said...

There used to be tube testers at the 7-11? Really?

Steve Perry said...

Oh, yeah. Lot of places had 'em, and if you knew how to do it, which I did, courtesy of watching my father, you could DIY, no sweat.

Had to be careful, because even if a TV was off, it could, for a few minutes, hold enough of a residual charge amongst the transformers and tubes to zap you real good, so you had to wait for that to bleed away before you took it apart.

How I knew we had switched over to transistors was went I went looking for a tester and couldn't find one.

There were still repair shops for radios and TVs even then, but they've gone the way of typewriter repair places and hitching posts ...

Jim said...

Testers... Tubes you could change...

One sad thing; we've become a largely technologically blind society, that relies on disposable stuff rather than fixable stuff.

I can't tell you how many people I come across shocked that I can actually fix a variety of things, because I often simply figure that it's already broke -- what's the worst I'm going to do?

OK, with an older TV and a charged capacitator, you can get yourself knocked right across the room... Not sure about newer ones. When my fancy plasma TV decided it no longer wanted to show pictures -- listening to TV is nowhere near as enjoyable as listening to classic radio -- I didn't even try to open it up to fix it. Even had I called someone, the parts would probably have been more than the new TV I bought.

Not sure where this is going... but it's something to ponder. Way too many folks are awful proud of not knowing how things work or even how to change a tire. (Some cars aren't even coming with spares anymore!)