Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Believe It or Not, There Wasn’t Always DirecTV


Cable TV 12-4-12

As I sit here watching my almost-nightly fix of Criminal Minds on ION TV (while I’m recording my current nightly fix of the Hallmark Channel holiday movie), I’m thinking about the marvel of cable (or satellite) television. 

Though we tend to think of cable TV as a fairly newish invention, the truth is that its earliest forms showed up way back in the 40s.  But that was really just to move the television signal a little further down the line and get a few more viewers (and a few extra dollars for the folks with the big antennas).  But by 1972, broadcast regulations had changed, HBO was launched, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, I grew up in a slightly smallish town, so the fact that premium television stations existed somewhere didn’t really do me much good.  And I also grew up with a fairly old-fashioned father, so even once Norman, OK had a well-established cable television system, my dad didn’t really see the point in paying good money just to watch TV.  I remember my sister and I wanted cable for quite a while before it actually made it into our home, and I can remember thinking how lucky some of my friends were who already had access to those magical extra channels.  But finally, my dad gave in.

I really don’t remember how old I was—I’m thinking maybe 15 or so—but I completely remember the way we found out.  It was about this time of year, and the whole family—Mama, Daddy, Tanya, me—was out at the mall doing some Christmas shopping.  We were doing what families do at malls, chatting as we wandered from store to store, when Daddy very nonchalantly told us we were getting cable for Christmas.  It was so out of the blue, with absolutely no fanfare, that I thought he was kidding.  I laughed, and just sort of said, “oh, okay, neat”, or whatever it was that teenagers were saying those days when they were playing it cool, and wandered off into the next store.  But my mom followed me and explained Daddy hadn’t been kidding; he really was finally getting us the cable we’d been wanting for so long. 

Oh my gosh.  I was no longer playing it cool.  I don’t know exactly what happened then, but I’m pretty sure it involved some hand clapping, goofy grins, and hugs.  Oh, and a lot of questions of “WHEN?”  For a TVaholic like myself, there couldn’t have been a better present; I was thrilled. 

Of course, it probably won’t surprise you to know that some things don’t ever change.  The cable was supposed to be installed the next day, but there was some reason it couldn’t be done.  It seems like we waited forever, though I’m pretty sure it was really only a couple of days.  You’d think after waiting a couple of years, another couple of days wouldn’t have mattered much, but I was ready.

I still remember those early cable days fondly . . . the way an extra 10 or 20 stations seemed like a smorgasbord of variety, even if I only watched a few of them . . . the “remote control” that was a big box with a slider channel selector and a long cord stretching across the living room from the TV to the end table . . . programming that came to an end before the day was over . . . all things that seem positively prehistoric when compared to the satellite TV I’m watching now, with remote controls on both sides of my living room, round the clock programming, and literally hundreds of channels—even if I still watch relatively few of them.  Still, prehistoric or not, it was part of my history of television infatuation and it paved the way for what I have now, so, tonight I say a little word of thanks to cable TV.