Breaking news from the world of television

Laurie Snider
Notes from the Nest

This just in! We interrupt this regular article in the Napanee Beaver to bring you some breaking news! After several years of indecision and valiant attempts to manage with regular cable TV, I have finally taken a major leap forward in the world of technology and signed on to stream Netflix. I ask our family, friends and especially our children to remain calm and continue to offer your support, (especially  IT support), as I navigate these thrilling, titillating, tantalizing times.

It’s a fact. I’m a bit of a luddite. It isn’t so much that I’m opposed to new technology, as it is that I struggle with it, especially learning how to use it. I finally begin to get comfortable with the ‘latest and greatest innovation, when suddenly something even “later and greater” comes along and I have some brand-new permutation to subdue, conquer, focus and fixate on. I’m quite certain anyone who remembers spending half of the early ‘80s trying to programme their VCRs, would agree with me.

The first attempts at mechanical TVs began in the 1840s. It wasn’t until 1927, that the first electronic television demonstration was given by Philo Farnsworth of San Francisco. It projected a three-and-a-half-inch image of his wife Elma with closed eyes, due to the bright lights blazing in them so she couldn’t see.

Interestingly after television was really catching on, Farnsworth would not even let his own children watch it saying, “There’s nothing on it worthwhile and we’re not going to watch it in this household.”

He did however appear on it himself once, on CBS’s ‘I’ve got a secret.’ He stumped the panel trying to guess who he was and for his troubles received an eighty-dollar cash prize and a carton of Winston cigarettes.

Although experiments began on cathode ray tubes in the late 1800s, mechanical televisions were the main type until the 1930s. One of the first examples of a TV series was, The Television Ghost, which aired from 1931-1933. It must have been riveting TV, as it consisted entirely of a 15- minute monologue conveying the stories of murder victims, delivered by a single actor, dressed as the dead, with the only visual image being of his head.

My Mom shared with me that they got their first TV in 1954, a 12-inch black-and- white set with an aerial. She said, “most of the time the reception was poor and we watched programs through snow.” She also shared that they had an antenna outside on the roof with two attached ropes. Grandpa would pull on a rope to swing the antenna around, attempting to improve the reception and the family would pound on the window to let him know when he got it about right. Honestly, kids today have no idea just how good they’ve got it!

I also remember having an antenna to clear up the static on the television when I was a child. We’d graduated from ropes to a small box on top of the set with a button which made a mournful, moaning sound as it rotated the antenna on the roof, until you found the perfect place. Today parents are vigilant about what their children are watching on TV to keep them safe, ours were more concerned about us climbing the antenna onto the roof during an extra-spirited game of hide-and-seek.

The advent of cable television cleared up our screens and watching the ol’ boob tube became a regular part of family entertainment. Variety shows like Sonny and Cher or Carol Burnett were popular. Sitcoms such as MASH, Bewitched, Happy Days and Mary Tyler Moore, were just a few of the shows that kept us amused. By the 1980s VCRs arrived on the scene and we could now tape our favourite shows and rent movies to watch as well.

Ever since in fairly quick succession, every few years some newer technology is introduced, offering brighter, sharper pictures and improved clarity of sound. Inevitably this means we’ve accumulated stacks of VHS tapes sitting on shelves gathering dust, keeping good company with old DVDs and Blu-rays. Naturally none of them are required any longer, as most shows, movies and programs can now be streamed on line.

As marvelous as all of this is, I’ve struggled to keep pace. I got lost somewhere between discs and rays and became resistant, even pouty with the next cutting-edge modifications. So last week I surprised even myself, when during a particularly weak moment, despite having cable with over 50 channels and our vast stores of dated electronic media to choose from, I felt antsy and agitated finding nothing suitable to watch and heard myself uttering, “Netflix!” Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’m about to get my first lesson. Wish me luck!

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