Family Firsts – Television

We had a black and white television that sat on a TV cart long before we had the handsome television encased in a wood veneer case. It had antenna wire twisted onto screws in the back (later, some had u-clips on the end). I have written before about our process of turning the antenna to tune in far away stations.

I do not remember when we got our first color television, but I remember when the first person in the Valley purchased theirs. It was a big deal and all of us wanted to go see the beginning of “The Wonderful World of Disney” or see the NBC peacock spread its plumage in glorious color. Of course there was a gimmick to turn your black and white TV into a color TV. You could buy an Instant Color TV screen with three colors to place in front of your television screen. They were hideous.

The antenna was not the only thing that controlled the image on the television set. Depending on the type of television you had, there were controls to adjust the width and height of the image on the screen, a vertical hold and a horizontal hold. Since these adjustments were on the back of the television, it was best to have someone in front telling you when to stop adjusting. This video might bring back some memories, although this is a color television set.

Eventually if you lived in a more urban area where signals were stronger, there were rabbit ears – antennas that were either built into the set or that sat on top and were attached to the back of the set. One might often see aluminum foil wrapped around the antenna to help boost the signal reception. Ahhh, the glory days!

There were two frequencies VHF and UHF, with early televisions not having a UHF receiver. Later televisions shipped with a circular antenna for UHF  but many people did not know its purpose. I found a great blog on the history of UHF if you are nerdy like me and want to read it. I found it very interesting.

The History of UHF-TV

Early televisions were not instant-on, nor were they instant off. I can still recall the screen disappearing into a tiny dot until it finally faded away. Television stations ‘signed-off the air’ at night with the familiar ‘test pattern’ appearing on screen until the station came back on air the following morning. And there were no remotes. Thankfully there were four children in our family and we took turns serving as the remotes for our parents. It was deemed the light from televisions was bad for children’s eyes, so we were made to sit away from the television instead of sprawled on the floor in front of the set. I can remember having TV lamps which were supposed to help with protecting our eyes.

Televisions got bigger and everyone had a color TV. Eventually there were remotes and more than one television in a house. Cable was introduced (remember when it was supposed to be commercial free because you paid for it? Ha!) We had one station growing up and it seemed there was always something to watch. Now cable offers so many channels and there seems to be nothing to watch.

Our television viewing of choice now has shifted to streaming. We do not subscribe to any cable television at all.

What do you remember about your early days of television? Perhaps, depending on your age, you have never known a time without cable. I’d love to hear!

Jack H. Kubanoff, Indian head test pattern labeled, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons