Friday, April 03, 2015

C is for Cable TV

This month I'm participating in the A to Z Challenge. My theme is the 80s. Today's letter is:



Today's children (and younger adults) were born in an era of hundreds of TV channels. They don't remember a time when you had three choices to watch on TV--ABC, NBC, and CBS. We also had a local station that became Fox and, of course, PBS. If you wanted to watch TV, you had to turn a dial that looked like this:


There were no remotes. If you were a child, you were the one who changed the channel.


Even when cable came along, you had one TV in the house that had it. Everyone had to watch together. Your cable box had about 40 channels and looked like some variation of this:


If you tried to go from Channel 2 to Channel 42 too quickly, your mom said, "Stop that. You'll strip it!"

Or maybe that was just my mom.


In those early days, there were four paid movie channels: HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and The Movie Channel. At least that's what I remember? You bought HBO, you had ONE CHANNEL of HBO. I know, crazy, right? How did we ever survive?


(^Odd 1985 commercial somehow equating cable TV with being a good mom.)

But we can't talk about the introduction of cable without talking about this:


MTV changed everything. It set the tone for the 80s. It turned music from something you heard to something you saw. I'll leave you with the very first minutes MTV was ever on the air. "A new concept is born." How could we have known that someday it would be best known as the home of 16 and Pregnant?

67 comments:

  1. Back in the day when MTV actually played music. I remember when it debuted in 1981 and I watched the very first video.
    Don't forget there was also that odd station on UHF that came in now and then...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't see when it first aired. I think it was midnight, so I was probably asleep! But we did watch all summer and they rotated a lot of the same videos over and over. It's funny to watch some of the first videos they played on that first day--many of them were just artists singing on a stage. (Pat Benatar, You'd Better Run, for instance.) They didn't have the fancy videos yet.

      Delete
  2. I didn't see MTV until 1991 when I spent a year in a town that had cable TV - I loved it. We had 3 channels too, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV until the advent of the aptly names Channel 4 in the 80s :). Now we have hundreds of channels and there's still nothing on ;)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how it is here. I usually just watch Netflix or Hulu. When my husband's out of town, the TV never even gets turned on.

      Delete
  3. What a post Stephanie, I am smiling now. I relate to your post, because I belong to the same era. The TV with circular channel knob, and I remember a day when I was changing the channels, it came out. I used a toy plier to change the channel!! Those were the days :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember people having to do that! We had little black-and-white TVs in our bedrooms from junior high on but they didn't have cable. So we were stuck watching whatever was on network TV.

      Delete
  4. I remember in 1986 my parents bought a black and white tv too

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some things look better in black and white!

      Delete
  5. I love those good old days when there was less choices and life was less hectic too.
    We were satisfied with less...
    A good post with good memorabilia.
    Hugs,
    JB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All that's happened is that TV producers have been required to fill that time with something--hence the popularity of reality TV. "Let's just fill it with junk." Young people don't even realize channels like A&E and Bravo were actually created to showcase ART!!!!! I think Bravo is the Real Housewives channel now, isn't it? I seem to remember when it was showing opera.

      Delete
  6. Yes, yes and yes! I grew up with that tv! My youngest teen son saw an old microwave yesterday with a dial. Haha. He was like, "What in the world?!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember the dial on microwaves--was that to set the time? We got our first microwave when I was eight and I just remember it was HUGE.

      Delete
  7. We had a black and white TV for the larger part of my childhood :) And Yugoslavia had only five national TV stations in each republic capital. We've only got cable TV very late, it was well into 90's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You were probably better off for it, too--you got to enjoy your childhood. Interesting that you're so into entertainment now, though. You made up for lost time!

      Delete
  8. TV came to my city of Bombay India in 1972, We had only 1 channel. But the excitement of watching was so great. Cable TV has truly changed the face of TV.
    dropping by from the AtoZ Challenge
    Suzy at Someday Somewhere

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has...and probably not in a good way. I'm watching Netflix now...I never really watch TV on our actual TV set anymore!

      Delete
  9. I remember MTV as something that was mentioned in the UK in the 80's, mainly via movies (one line I always remember from The Lost Boys, Sam - 'No TV, Mike, and you know what no TV means - no MTV!') it wasn't until the early 90's when I got Sky that I finally saw MTV, and that was MTV Europe. I remember the likes of Mark King introducing the shows. :)
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And MTV started sucking around the early 90s. I hope it stayed good there for a while. There's a whole story I was reading the other day about The Real World and how its creators pitched a soap opera to MTV and it would be too expensive to produce. So they thought, "What if we throw real people together in a New York loft and film them 24/7?" TV was never the same after that...

      Delete
  10. Oh, Stephanie! I'm so fond of you, but do you have to keep reminding me of my (advanced) age?? In the late 50's and early 60's, we had one black-and-white TV in the living room with, yes, three channels. And even though I don't ever watch TV in the current phase of my life, I'm your go-to person for every word of the Mr. Ed, My Three Sons, and Gilligan's Island theme songs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, well, there are always these 20-somethings and 30-somethings here that make me feel ancient. My husband will talk about shows I never watched because they weren't on TV--and he's only five years older. But he'll say, "They were in reruns when I saw them." It's the difference between what was on in reruns in the early 70s and the late 70s...and there's a big difference. I watched a LOT of Gilligan's Island and Bewitched because they were on constantly.

      Delete
  11. Replies
    1. Me too. Now if you want to see a music video, you have to go to YouTube.

      Delete
  12. MTV wasn't so bad when they had videos and music, then it turned to crap. Thankfully i always had about 30-40 channels. Really that is all we need, the 100's now are just the same thing over and over again

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blame it on Mary Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray. They started The Real World (she came from the world of soap operas during their heyday and I guess needed a new way to lower the bar on what we watch) and once the rest of the entertainment industry figured out they could make entertainment for cheap and people would watch, it was all done.

      Delete
  13. I remember the three big networks, as well as PBS and an independent channel (it was 11 in NYC). In Florida there were two or three more independent channels that later on became UPN, CW, and some other things. I never had cable channels until I was an adult, so I missed out on that. I remember my first black and white TV with the rabbit ear antennae.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was 17 here...and 17 became Fox. UPN was...30, I think? And then there was 58...so confusing because I don't think our dials went above 13 but U was what was the independent channel, right?

      Delete
  14. The 80s was mostly my "tv-less" decade. I remember watching MTV at a friend's house and thinking I'd just as soon listen to the radio--I was so not with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband talks about having MTV on during parties as background music. Yeah, same as having the radio on, only when there was a lull in the conversation, you'd have something to stare at, I guess.

      Delete
  15. Hahaha. I was totally the remote! And yeah, we didn't even get a color TV until I was about 10 and didn't have cable until 8th grade. MTV was awesome back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember when we got a color TV for the living room. I remember watching Charlie's Angels at 8 or 9...and I ASSUME it was in color but it could have been black and white, for all I know. I do know I'm blonde today because I grew up thinking Olivia Newton-John and Cheryl Ladd were the definition of beauty. (Also, I started coloring my hair blonde before I went gray and now if I go back, the gray will show!)

      Delete
  16. Probably the oldest visitor to your blog, and thanks for those memories. Lived in the pre tv years. Reminded of the time when teaching very young children and was asked the question.' Were you alive when there were dinosaurs?' :0)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was little, my mom says I looked over and asked, "What was it like going to school in a covered wagon?"

      Delete
  17. I tell my nephews all the time that they're lucky with the TVs and other technology that they have now. I remember using the bunny ears. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember getting really frustrated with the bunny ears. And wasn't there something about turning the thing around the knob that would make reception get better? Maybe that was the black-and-white TV I had in my room in the 80s.

      Delete
  18. We had the first TV in our small town my Dad bought from an Uncle who wanted to promote them, the uncle was learning how to repair them in the early 1950's. We had a lot of neighbors who would come over to watch our tiny screen. Every time they came out with a bigger one, Dad would buy another. He loved Lucille Ball and the Ed Sullivan show. I liked American Bandstand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I watched American Bandstand every Saturday morning in the 80s. And listened to American Top 40 every Sunday morning. Never missed either of them, from what I remember. And I LOVED Solid Gold. I think that was on Saturday afternoons but it was syndicated, so it probably aired at different times in different cities.

      Delete
  19. Wow, Stephanie, this was a real blast from the past. I remember the Big Three channels, and flipping the dial on the TV. I don't know--i though we were happy back then before cable. But then I saw Pete Townsend shouting "I want my MTV!" and my life changed forever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can still remember the videos they played the first year. Quarterflash's Harden My Heart--there was a scene where a little girl was sitting in front of a mirror in the desert, I think? It was creepy. Then there was "Fish Heads." I heard later Bill Paxton directed and starred in that video. It was the weirdest video ever. "Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads, fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, yum."

      Delete
  20. I gave up television four years ago, and have no regrets!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a much more productive, peaceful way to live.

      Delete
  21. How well I remember those days of a select few channels. Now, there are tons of channels and never anything worthy of watching. Thanks for the trip back on memory lane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. I was at a writer's conference where the speaker told a story about his friend who writes for one of those house hunting reality shows...he was talking about how much of the show was fake.

      Delete
  22. We had a TV that grandpa gave us. The tuner went from 2 to 13 like a radio dial. You could not go from 13 right to 2, you had to go backward around back to channel 2. Between the TV stations were radio channels. Oh, when you got to your channel there was a smaller button to fine tune it in...no clicking in place.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I remember those days. We had an aerial antenna we had to turn to get the channel to come in. We lived in a rural area so there was no cable. Even now, there's no cable out there. I remember early MTV, too. I used to like it when they just had music videos.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I loved the old MTV with music videos. Gosh I'm old, LOL. I do remember the limited channels we had and the cable box.

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  25. I was born in 1951 so I was sent into the living room to turn on our Philco television five minutes before we were going to watch something. It took that long to warm up. Remember the test pattern when programming ended for the day. Oh yes, I was the remote too. I so remember.

    Have a fabulous Good Friday. :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Good memories of watching music videos in college!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I was born in 1940 and didn't have a TV (a small black and white) until I was 12. How deprived I was!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Here in deprived Australia I can only remember two channels. I can certainly remember being the remote control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were more - but you had to PAY for them.

      Delete
  29. I remember no TV. Yep, that far back. Then we had TV, three channels, like you said. When I had children I waited for Saturday morning so the boys could watch cartoons. That was the only time they came on. Times definitely have changed.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Here in Canada, we had Much Music, which I personally thought kicked MTV's *ss. The first time I saw MTV, I was so disappointed. It had about five videos that they played in constant rotation. But then they came up with all those awesome documentaries, and our Much turned into a copycat.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Yup, I remember having only a few channels. I had one of those TVs in my room. It was the old TV and it still worked, so I took it!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Now I don't watch cable and just watch Netflix.

    If live sports was on Netflix, I think that would crumble cable and satellite

    ReplyDelete
  33. Oh my this does bring back memories. We had the Canadian stations of Global, CTV and the Hamilton Station. We were too far to get Barrie:) We thought we were so advanced when we got the outside antenna and we had this dial on top of the TV that we would change and you would hear it move so you could pick up the channel better. It's so funny that we kids were the channel changers:) I did not have cable until 1999! I still don't have HBO nor Netflix:)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Ha! Love it!
    There was no cable at my mother's house when I was a kid. Until I went to college back in the 90s (you know, a hundred thousand years ago ;) and all the dorms were wired up, I never had round the clock access. For a while, we even had a tv with some sort of wiring mishap that meant we had to switch a cable in the back, by hand, if you wanted to watch any channel above 18. Fun times.
    And of course, now we just have netflix and hulu.

    ReplyDelete
  35. We actually had a remote on our TV. One of those Zenith ones that dinged to change the channel, but you could only go channel by channel. You couldn't go from 2 to 13 in one fell swoop. And by the time we got cable (it wasn't a priority as we had decent antenna reception), we had set top boxes with actual remotes. Snazzy.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I had to stop the Comcast rep who was trying to get me to change my plan the other day, "Lady, I don't NEED 5 HBOs and 4 Showtimes!" Seriously, they play the same movies on every single channel, so why bother anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Yup, I remember when MTV and Much Music actually shows music videos . . . all day, every day. Of course, I also remember rabbit ears, UHF antennas, and stations that signed off for the night. :)

    ReplyDelete
  38. sigh, I miss MTV! I was a TRL girl--every day after school I parked my butt in front of my TV and watched Carson count down the top 10 videos! and of course I voted for Hanson obsessively haha

    ReplyDelete
  39. My Dad was a TV bully - it was his TV. He would just call out the show he wanted, even if you were watching something else.

    "Hey, that's not Mannix!" or "That's not Magnum, P.I.!"

    Now that he has passed, we laugh at some of his craziness.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I am really enjoying your A to Z walk through nostalgia. Yep, we only had one tv in the house and you were lucky to all three channels clearly without having to adjust the antennae. We never did get cable. I always loved it when I stayed with friends that had cable. It seemed like there were so many channels. :) My parents eventually caved and got dish, but not until after I was moved out and married.

    ReplyDelete
  41. How did we survive indeed?! That seems impossible when compared with today :)
    Dan Brown A-Z

    ReplyDelete
  42. That ad was SO bizarre. Advertising being a stay at home mom + cable TV together. But I was a 1996 baby so you're right--I don't remember a time before cable.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I remember when cable TV came to Nova Scotia, my dad was one to get the new things first, we had it long before our friends did... without cable we only had two local stations and a French station... believe me that was boredom... xox

    ReplyDelete
  44. Oh does this one hit home today! The cable guy was here last week to fix my broken cable box that had somehow decided it should no longer record the 5 AM news. But better than a repaired 8 year old box we got the new one!!!! For $3 more we can now record 6 shows at the same time. Jenna was so jealous she went to the cable store yesterday to theirs. The cable guy wanted $50 to come replace theirs as it wasn't broken or they could pick it up and do it themselves. Which they did!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I had no idea cable existed until I was a young adult. I had a high school classmate who said something about Home Box Office, but his parents were exceptionally wealthy, so I knew it was nothing I'd ever experience.

    Then I moved to my first duty station in Montana and bought a COLOR TV. I refused to pay extra to get a remote control version, because I could change the channel myself.

    Jean, back from the Grand Tour and visiting for the A-Z Challenge from Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer Number 209 on the A-Z List.

    Jean Schara
    Blackbirds First Flight (Quin)
    Blackbirds Second Flight (Glaring Upheaval and Fluffy Malone)

    ReplyDelete