We Interupt This Program…

Suddenly, the TV show we were watching just stopped. We could get the cable channels, but the wifi stopped working.

This meant no Netflix, YouTube or Amazon Prime.

This moment made it clear to me how much the Internet is quickly becoming the main information conduit through which we receive our information and entertainment.

We had to wait a day before a tech could come to the house. As he tested the equipment, checked the box outside and made phone calls, I thought back to the 60s and being sent outside to turn the antenna pole.

In southwest Arkansas, we received three channels, all from Shreveport, Louisiana. NBC and ABC always were pretty reliable, but CBS was hit or miss. This was problematic since The Andy Griffith Show, Red Skelton, Lost in Space and Hogan’s Heroes all aired on CBS.

“Johnny, go turn the antenna,” my dad would say.

Turning the antenna was both a privilege and somewhat frightening. Normally, it was dark when the antenna needed turning. I may have felt priviledged to be asked to turn it, but I was also a kid and was scared of the dark.

“Hold it!” my dad would yell through the window. “Back just a little. That’s it! Right there,” he would say.

I would then head back into the house to see a grainy, but watchable picture.

We had a RCA console television. It was a color set, but not everything was broadcast in color then. RCA owned NBC, so it seemed that there were more color programs on that network than the others.

I always looked forward to watching TV with my dad. He would often laugh at the comedy shows and I would try and figure out why he was laughing. Most jokes weren’t written for a kid under 10, so I relied on him to understand why something was funny.

The television programming was scheduled according to who was most likely to be home at the time it aired. My mom, like many other moms, was a homemaker. During the day, soap operas were on. My grandmother called them, “Her stories.” You didn’t talk or make noise when her stories were on, or you would find yourself in the backyard playing.

But, beginning at 3:30 each weekday afternoon, kid’s programming began. We had the choice of Channel 3’s aptly titled, “3:30 Movie,” which seemed to show the same 12 films over and over, or The Three Stooges, or cartoons.

I was and still am a Stooge fan, but I always checked to see if Channel 3 was broadcasting “The Fly.” If The Fly was on, I would watch that every time.

Growing up before “Sesame Street” first aired, summer mornings were spent with Captain Kangaroo and Kukla Fran and Ollie. Saturday’s included Looney Tunes, The Pink Panther and Scooby Doo.

There wasn’t anything else that was much better than chowing down on Cptain Crunch and watching Looney Tunes.

That RCA TV brought us thousands of hours of entertainment, the latest news from Washington and Vietnam, and Neal Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.

Time passed, and fewer antennas dotted neighborhood skylines. Cable and satellite dishes became the new norm. Television stations continued to broadcast over-the-air, but very few people opted to continue receiving their programs that way.

The old analog signals we received then were broadcast on different parts of the spectrum. The picture was closer to the AM radio band, and the audio was closer to the FM band. I remember being able to pick up the audio from Channel 6 on the lowest frequency available on an FM radio.

A few years ago, those signals ceased to carry television broadcasts and were replaced by crystal-clear high definition signals on different parts of the spectrum. That’s why converters are required for older sets.

The cable technician finally solved our wifi problem and we had Netflix and the other channels back.

I thanked him and gave him a soda pop for the road.

I thought about how he’d spent almost two hours fixing something that my dad used to fix in two minutes by simply saying, “Johnny, go turn the antenna.”

©2016 John Moore
To read additional blogs, visit johnmoore.net/blog

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