MCCULLOUGH: Longing for rabbit ears

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

My household now has HDTV — sort of.

Since none of the new-fangled gizmos actually work, I'm not sure how much high definition our televisions have. We also got one of those digital video recorders that allow you to record and watch TV from any room in the house — only ours doesn't.

As I write this, I am waiting on the man from the satellite company to come fix all these fancy things that were given to us for free (you always get what you pay for) for being loyal subscribers for five years and, of course, for promising to keep being loyal for two more.

I should've known when the man who installed the stuff came in the house talking about his girlfriend breaking up with him on Valentine's Day that we were in trouble. His mind may have not been on the task at hand. But to be fair, I'm not sure at this point that we didn't just get a bad batch of "free" equipment, so I guess I'll wait until he gets here to find out.

Where the fault lies aside, I know this stuff is not working. Unless scrambled video, numerous messages to reset and restart or to call customer service, not being able to record and not being able to change the channel (when it's not changing by itself) is considered working properly. If that's the case, then we are up to snuff. But I'm thinking it's not.

The whole experience has me a little nostalgic for our old Zenith and a set of rabbit ears, and believe me, I am not retro when it comes to television. I like DVRs and hi-def, picture in picture and pay-per-view. I think pausing live TV is maybe the greatest invention of the past 20 years, and I have an iPhone.

And yet here I am again in the place I always seem to be when I travel down the road of technological advancement — in the ditch.

Computers, smartphones, game gizmos, television — you name the gadget and you can rest assured that by the time I finally get caught up to the rest of the world I will still lag behind because the one I get will not work.

Which, again, makes me long for the old Zenith we had at my house back in the '70s. That thing must've weighed three tons. No remote control, no cable and no VCR (at least not until the late 1980s.) Just a set of rabbit ears and a round antenna that I'm still not sure what it did. To change the channel you had to get your butt up off the couch and go twist this knob that took roughly 1,000 foot-pounds of pressure to make it lurch over to the next number. That eliminated surfing. Well, that, and the fact that we only had seven channels, which was living in high cotton compared to my cousins in Mississippi, who only got two.

Nowadays I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 — and there's rarely anything worth watching on any of them.

A lot of times there wasn't anything on the Zenith either, but at least the thing with seven channels worked most of the time. And the one time I remember it breaking we were able to actually get it fixed instead of just scrapping it for a new one. (Luckily my uncle was a TV repairman.)

It had its drawbacks. If your show came on and you weren't home, you just missed it. You sat through commercials. And as a kid, there was nothing worse than the president coming on, because he'd be on every channel.

But it was simpler. It did not try to be and do everything, which is what too many people and things try to do these days. The old Zenith did one thing: It brought a television signal into your house. And you could watch it if you wanted.

Unlike the roughly $2.3 million worth of plastic Chinese junk sitting at my house right now. I know once it's working I'll love it. But in the meantime, I'll sit and wait, and wish that I had that 19-inch, American-made screen.

Even it was filled with reruns of "Chico and the Man."

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.


dikpa 3 years, 6 months ago

One would easily think that Nate McCullough was an old man, the way he waxed nostalgic about how things used to be. At least, my 12-year-old son did until he found out that I am much older than Nate. Now, Dez finally believes those television and telephone stories I occasionally share with him. Thanks for sharing, Nate!


LilburnLady 3 years, 6 months ago

We have true HD TV in our home......for free. Now that over-the-air broadcast is in digital, it is true, uncompressed HD TV. When we disconnected our cable and bought an antenna, we were amazed by how true HD looks, light years better than the picture you get through the cable and without all of the gadgets and gizmos and bills. A $14 "bat wing" antennae from Walmart is up inside our attic space and we now have 90% of the "basic" cable package channels for free. In addition, we bought a Roku box which allows our TV to connect to the internet and our Netflix account. We have on-demand movies whenever we want and access to some TV shows through Netflix and Hulu. Total cost per month is about $15.00.


Corinne Nicholson 3 years, 6 months ago

I still have a 14-inch Zenith in my house. I have had it since college and it still works mostly great (the channels in the 40s go out 5 minutes after watching them). It has outlasted four other much larger televisions made in China. It even survived a lightning strike with no power strip, while a much newer TV on a power strip did not.


Michael Buckelew 3 years, 6 months ago

It can be a pain when there are installation problems. But when you get a LED-backlit 1080p 120Hz sucker fired up with a DVR and Blu-ray Disc player, your boredom is gone. I can even control my Dish Network receiver using my iPhone or iPad when on the same local network, plus set recordings from ANYWHERE.

There is a learning curve to all new things, but most of them are worth it. At least with HDMI we're finally getting back to the days of one cable for everything instead of one cable with three plugs for video (component video cables) and either coaxial or digital audio cables for sound.


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