In a conversation recently, I made reference to Maynard G Krebs. Blank stares rather than chuckles suggested my humor had failed. I guess they didn’t dig my antiquated reference to a hip beatnik…Not cool!
They quickly pointed out to me that our generation gap was close to an abyss…definitely a fault. Wow…was it really that long ago. I know that a lot of my friends are “kids” compared to my advanced years, but I often forget that everyone wasn’t around for the “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”. Even Sue claims she’s “almost too young” to remember 1950s television.
Maybe she doesn’t remember shows from as far back as I do, but she does remember the early years of television. We often try to explain to the grandkids what it was like to watch Black and White TV …on a 21 inch screen …and able to tune in only one station that didn’t look like a Picasso sketch in a snow storm. It’s also hard for them to comprehend the need for a Test Pattern or stations actually going off the air for any reason except sun spots.
Actually, I don’t remember sun spots effecting our remote controlled, directional antenna. Well, not remote controlled as in infra red. It was however, remotely wired to the antenna on the roof. I think every time we turned the TV on, dad would go to that remote control and turn the antenna. In essence, our conversation would go something like;
“Dad, what are you doing?” …as if I didn’t know.
“What’s it look like I’m doing?” …as if he didn’t know I knew.
“Why change the direction of the antenna, TV’s still on channel 6? …as if there was any other channel he watched.
“If you must know; for the best reception, you must fine tune the direction of the antenna.” …as if the station had moved overnight.
My dad’s fine tuning skills were made obsolete by AFT.
Ooops…my apology to those of you not around for that electronic marvel. Automatic Fine Tuning all but negated my dad’s personal fine tuning. Prior to solid state, my father would kneel beside the TV— his face peering at an extreme angle to the screen while reaching for the adjusting knobs on the back of the console. (Yes, televisions once were feet not inches, front to back)
He was rarely satisfied with balancing brightness and contrast. And, with analog TV, horizontal and vertical hold often came into play. Ah, now there’s a couple terms I’ll bet only half my readers will understand.
Horizontal and Vertical Hold. They were misnomers, though. They didn’t always hold. Frequent adjustments were often necessary. My dad was diligent in maintaining what didn’t hold automatically. He firmly believed all things can be improved upon. At times it seemed he’d sense the VH was about to lose control.
He’d adjust that knob at the back of the TV until the picture would start to roll upwards on the screen. Then he’d twist it counter-clockwise until the picture would start to move off the bottom of the screen. This caused me to wonder if he thought maybe he could roll the picture down far enough to see the marionette pulling Howdy Doody’s strings. It’s really too bad if you don’t remember Flub-a-Dub and Mr. Bluster.
Anyway back to dad trying to find dead center for the picture. Now that he’d found the lower limit, he’d have to recheck the knobs position at which the picture began the upward flutter. Finally, he’d guesstimate the middle position for the setting.
I don’t remember him messing with the Horizontal Hold much. Essentially, that adjustment was to rectify a screen which had already skewed at an angle. No matter how far you’d turn the knob either way, I don’t remember the picture ever tipping to the right. But he’d tweak the adjustment a slight turn back from the point at which the picture quivered — as if threatening to lean to the left.
Alas, even if he fine tuned every time the set was first turned on, the longer the TV was on and it’s tubes—yes, tubes, not transistors or chips—heated up, the more likely one of the holds wouldn’t.
Imagine you’re watching the big game …one a week, on Sunday. It’s 4th and goal from the 1. Your team has the ball, but is 6 points behind and only seconds left in the game. The team comes to the line…you come to the edge of your chair…and….suddenly, the TV screen divides into 5 pictures at 45 degrees from vertical. Which brings up another sorta baffling misnomer: Why, when the picture is NOT vertical, would you reach for the Horizontal control? They should have called it perpendicular control. Okay, so maybe something shorter like slant control, …or distort, …skew, …angle control. Even Anger Control would seem to be more appropriate than Horizontal Control of an obviously un-vertical picture.
Yet, in fact, the TV had lost horizontal control, and there was some loss of control for everyone watching it. By the time anyone could get to the HC button, the station was airing a commercial. Hmmm, not much has changed in regard to commercial TV.
Ah, but now there’s instant replay. In the 60’s, the only replay was in the newspaper. The Evening News broadcast rarely had same day video footage in those days. Even though there were no replays back then, today’s replay of my youthful TV experiences is still very entertaining.