It’s sometime in the early 1960s. I’m in high school. I come home from school and decide I’d like to watch a little TV. I walk up to the set, turn the knob for “on,” wait for the picture to appear, and then decide which station to watch by clicking another knob with 14 choices (channels 2 – 12, and those three new UHF channels, 17, 29, and one more I can’t remember). Since reception is via antenna, my viewing choices are limited to those stations in Philadelphia, Channels 3, 6, 10, 12, 17, 29 (and that other one I can’t remember). If there’s nothing to choose from in that selection … well, I find something else to do.
Now, technology has finally become ridiculously complex.
OK, I’ll admit, I don’t keep up with the latest of anything. My cell phone, my computer, my TV are all pretty much standard devices. I have friends who speak about their technological acquisitions in a language that makes my head hurt. Try as I might, I simply can’t keep pace with the finer aspects of modern developments.
But the reality of just how complex things have become came crashing in on me this week. Evelyn and I are enjoying a most relaxing time away in the Pocono Mountain house owned by our daughter ’Chelley and son-in-law Dave. It’s an absolutely lovely mountain house in the middle of a serene setting (we even see deer occasionally meandering across the front yard).
However, I must admit that the TV system here boggles the mind. For someone who grew up turning two knobs on the set to locate a program, this one is a true challenge. Turning on the set is no problem – press the button with the universal “power” icon on the remote. Once the set warms up, it wants to know who’s watching, so we select ’Chelley’s name. From there we must choose which (network? I’m not even sure how to refer to them) to use: YouTube TV, Netflix, Disney+, etc. ’Chelley advised us to go to YouTube TV because it’s easier to get to the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.). So we click on YouTube TV.
Splash!! The screen is filled with myriad (or what seems like) myriad other choices to scroll thru. Oh, look – there’s ABC. So we select that one. And we’re baffled. Because it’s not the ABC network, but ABC News Live, a streaming service that reports the news all the time.
I haven’t been pressing buttons for that long, but I’m already feeling like I’m lost in a forest of unfamiliar trees. Every time I think I’ve found what I’m looking for, it turns out to be something different from what I expect, or another screen with even more choices springs up. When or where does it end?
Now, I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to watch “Jeopardy!” (my favorite evening show) while we’ve been here. Just don’t ask me to explain how the heck we found it. I’m sure that between Evelyn and me we simply stumbled onto it each night.
It’s times like these that make me nostalgic for the simplicity of turning a couple of knobs and going directly to the program you want to watch. The most difficult part of operating a TV back then was mastering the “vertical” and “horizontal” controls.