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Wireless TV February 16, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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In the fall of 2000, our family moved into a new house in a new neighborhood.  Since we were living in a construction zone, cable cuts were common.  As a result, reliable television and internet connectivity was not a given and we would lose our signal at the drop of a hat (or backhoe, as the case may be).

As you may recall, there was a heated election that fall, and it took thirty days for Al Gore to throw in the towel.  He was scheduled to give his concession speech at 9 PM on December 13.  I was determined to see the event, having waited so long to see what should have happened a month earlier.  (I had no idea that his concession would ultimately lead to the horror of global warming, but that’s a topic for another post).

I turned on the television around 8:30 and was presented with a blank screen.  No! Not another cable outage!  Knowing that it could take hours to fix the cable, I began to look for alternatives.  I ran to the garage and grabbed a spool of wire, pulled the TV away from the wall, and began to rig a quick antenna.

My kids thought I had lost my mind.  Muttering to myself, I stripped the end of the wire, screwed  it to the 300-ohm antenna jack, and draped it across the shelves in the family room.  I switched the TV to the ANT-1 source, clicked to channel 5, and got a decent, somewhat snowy, picture.

My kids were stunned!  They gazed, slackjawed, at a modern miracle: television from thin air!

Until that moment, it never occured to me that my kids had never experienced television that was not delivered via cable.  They’d never tuned to a distant UHF channel, never been stuck with three channels, never used a paper television guide to see what was on.  They had never even used a TV with knobs! They had no idea that television signals ebb and flow around us all the time, free for the taking.

I like to share this story when the conversation turns to rapidly changing technology and the generational divides that result.  As we deploy new stuff at an ever-increasing rate, we need to keep in mind that not everyone understands why things work a certain way, or why some ideas may or may not be worth revisiting.  More importantly, we need to remember why we didn’t do certain things, to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.