October 21, 2018

TV or not TV, That is the Question…by Brendon Marks

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Recently as I marveled at the miracle of satellite TV I recalled the days gone by of when many rural households had no choice except over the air broadcast TV with the required antenna bristling from the peak of the roof, and an event which cemented these bygone days in my memory.

When I first noticed that all channels above thirteen on my TV were showing the same silent movie about a severe snowstorm in the Arctic I said, “Aw gee whiz. What now? First I can’t read the TV listings in my newspaper, now this.”

The first thing I tried was some percussive maintenance, which is the fine art of whacking the stuffing out of an electronic device in order to get it to work again. I started by slapping the remote control into the palm of my hand several times. This rarely works, but sometimes saves me the trouble of getting out of my chair.

This time I succeeded only in ejecting the batteries, (one of which flew into the kitchen and rolled under the refrigerator), thus rendering the remote useless. So I had to make that arduous journey across the room to fumble around looking for that well-camouflaged control panel on the front of the TV. After a minor mishap with the trim piece around the screen, I found the little door, pried it open with my pocket knife, and started pushing buttons.

I couldn’t read the purpose of each button because my rump-elevated position caused my bifocals to be diametrically opposed to their intended function. None of the buttons appeared to have any effect anyway, so I went back to percussive maintenance on the side of the box. When that didn’t work, I reached behind the TV and started wiggling wires. All connections were tight, so I unplugged the TV from the receptacle, and turned the plug over, but that made no difference either. (Actually it wouldn’t even go in the socket.)

I know that channels two through thirteen are VHF and fourteen through one million are UHF, so the U part of my HF’s must be bad. The U collector piece could have fallen off my antenna, (I understand it’s held in place by a U-bracket). The antenna wire could have developed a short in a U-turn, or all UHF channels within six hundred miles are off the air.

There can’t be anything wrong with the TV. Any device that is hand-crafted by the finest artisans of Taiwan and transported thousands of miles across the sea, to provide hundreds of hours of viewing pleasure simply cannot fail without warning. Any device sophisticated enough to provide on-screen VCR programming and picture within picture capability must have self-diagnosis logic smart enough to display a message when something doesn’t work. It worked fine when I last shut it off. The antenna must be bad.

I took my binoculars out in the yard to inspect my antenna. It’s clean, bright, intact, and remarkably guano-free. All wires are connected, and it’s aimed in the correct direction. All the stations must be off the air.

Using my binoculars I looked into my neighbor’s living room. He’s watching the same football game I wanted to watch, so the station must be OK. What now? Could it be the antenna wire? What about the VCR, have those numbers always flashed like that? Wait a minute. It’s not 12 o’clock. The VCR must be filtering out all the U channels. I have to bypass the VCR. Holy mackerel look at all those wires!

About then, the child that used to be my oldest, entered the room and asked, “Dad, why do people pay for cable TV?”

I answered, “Because they can’t get it for free.”

“No I mean, why would they want it?”

I said, “Because they get more channels.”

“But I don’t understand. When I switch that little switch on the back of the TV to ‘cable’ we get fewer channels, not more. None of the high channels work at all.”

“Youngster, we have to chat.”

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