Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When I Was Excited To Have 12 Channels

Watching television is something that has changed a lot over the years. I am old enough to remember when my parents first got cable service. The Binghamton area here in New York was one of the first markets to have cable television because over-the-air signals have limited range due to our geography.

Back then, the local service, which was called New Channels, had a grand total of twelve stations in its basic package. One of which was operated by the company with a camera focused on a clock.

Seriously. Just a shot of a clock. So there were eleven actual television stations. Four local ones (CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS) along with seven from other cities. The best of these was WPIX-11 from New York City. For decades, that station was one of the truly great independent stations. They had a solid newscast. They had all the New York Yankees games. They ran shows like "Star Trek", "The Honeymooners" and "The Odd Couple".  You could also always count on seeing a good movie on Saturday night.

To me, at age ten, this was something else.  It was my first ever look at the world that existed outside of what we call the "Southern Tier" of New York. Forty years down the road, I've seen a good part of this country (nineteen states) and three great Canadian cities as well (Quebec, Toronto and Montreal). I've lived within walking distance of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Had I never had that first look at the outside world, I might very well be someone who never travels and lives his entire life in one small area.

Was television good in the 1970s? Yes and no. The very best of it was very good. The majority of it ranged from decent to downright horrible. There were shows that never should have made it to air like "B.J. And The Bear". There are shows that never made it to air that should have like the proposed Star Trek revival. And there were shows that changed so much over several years that they almost became entirely new shows. I'm thinking of "M*A*S*H" as the most notable of those.

Of course, the 1980s were very different. In many ways, it was the first decade of modern television. Stereo sound replaced mono as the standard. By the mid 1980s, the local cable service had 40 channels as standard, along with expanded extras such as MTV.

In the years since, I've had times when all I could watch were a few over-the-air stations and I've had satellite service with hundreds of stations. My current basic package has 75 stations, which is fine with me.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this. I enjoyed writing it.

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