The TV is on, and I press the buttons on the remote – first moving up the listing and then down.
There is nothing on. Well, there is lots on, but nothing I deem worth viewing. There are reality shows which are about as real as a politician’s promise. Who would put themselves in the situations that are televised in those shows?
And there are news shows, or programs that claim to be news but are often nothing more than political slants on the events of the day. There are sports shows, but often no games. These shows have people talking about what happened the previous week or what will take place this coming weekend.
There are cooking shows full of ingredients I have never heard of and am pretty sure I have never tasted. They make it look so easy – and it is when all the ingredients are right in front of the cook, already cut, chopped, sliced and diced. They don’t even have to wash the dishes.
There are shows about people buying houses in far-off places. I already have a house and don’t want to live in those other places.
There are re-runs of crime shows, courtroom shows, sitcoms and even replays of football games from 15 or 20 years ago. As I said, there was nothing on.
But many of us who have lived here a long time can go back to a day when there was really nothing on. Nothing but a test pattern on our black and white TVs.
Back in the days when we had just arrived here and our first TV occupied its place of prominence in the living room, we received two channels – 6 and 12 out of Augusta. Occasionally on cloudy nights we could get a snowy picture from Channel 10 in Columbia, but those were rare times.
Unlike today when TV is 24/7, the stations then aired programming from around 5:30 or 6 in the morning until 11:30 or 12 (I couldn’t be sure of the exact time they went off the air since I didn’t stay up that late). The day’s programming started with the test pattern giving way to the fluttering image of an American flag and the playing of the National Anthem. Then we kids got to see morning cartoons and shows such as “Howdy Doody,” “Pinky Lee,” and “Captain Kangaroo.”
Those were arduous times. In order to turn on the power to the TV set, we had to actually walk over to the TV, grasp the on-off switch, give it a turn to the right and hear the click that signified that electricity was flowing to the numerous vacuum tubes that warmed up to allow the picture and sound to appear.
If the channel needed to be changed, we had to go to the set, put a hand on a circular dial with the numbers two through 13 – the only channels then available for broadcasting. We clicked from Channel 6 to Channel 12 and back again to decide which of the two choices was better, or if it was better to leave the TV off. When we selected the show to watch, we were mesmerized by the images in hues of black and white.
And when our parents said, “There is nothing good on,” we turned off the TV and went on to other pursuits like reading a book, playing a board game or putting Crayolas to paper in a coloring book.
Times have changed. Now when we turn on the set, it is with a push of a button on a remote as we relax in the comfort of our favorite chair. To change the channel, it is merely a push of another button. Rather than two choices of channels, we have dozens, scores and sometimes hundreds depending on the type of TV service in our homes.
We can set our equipment to record programs to be played back whenever we wish, and we view our favorite programs in high definition color often with surround sound audio components for a more realistic experience.
There is one commonality with today’s TV and that of bygone days – sometimes there is still nothing good to see.
When was the last time we sat down and read a good book?
Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard.
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