I can remember back in 1957 when I got my first television set. It was a huge blond console that only showed black and white pictures.

Back then everyone had a TV with rabbit ears or an antenna on their roof and sometimes both. We watched TV for hours, and although there weren't as many channels as now, it didn't cost us a dime. The commercials paid to present the shows to you and you just had to suffer through them to watch the different programs.

If the TV stopped working, you just reached inside and pulled out the tubes, took them down to the local store to check them out on a little machine they had there. You would plug them into the machine and if they didn't light up, you replaced them with new ones. No calling an expensive repairman to fix it; you did it yourself just for the cost of the tube that burned out.

I even had a little book that showed you which tubes controlled what, so if the vertical hold went out, you checked the book and it would tell you the tube to look for. Life was so simple then; you burned out a tube, you replaced it for a couple of bucks.

If the picture tube went out, well then, that was a different story altogether, but they didn't burn out as fast as the little tubes did. There was even a gadget to demagnetize your set so that it would have a better picture.


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I can remember when cable TV first started. I, of course, was opposed to it because I liked my TV being free. Sadly, I was outvoted by others, and all the things I had warned them about came true. People said they wanted the pay cable TV as then they wouldn't have to watch commercials anymore. They wanted to see the new movies for just the cost of the monthly cable bill. I tried to convince them that there was no way they would see new movies for the same cost as the regular cable, that monies collected from cable would not stop the ads, but it was all to no avail.

Now they have satellite, cable and other expensive ways to get the programs you want to see. I did rebel some 20 years ago and canceled my cable service. I found that living up here on the hill allowed me to catch quite a few stations with my old rabbit ears, a metal spoon and a bit of aluminum foil.

A few years ago they changed everything and I was afraid for awhile that I would have to finally again pay to watch TV. Then they came up with a box that could pick up the free air signals and our government would give us a coupon to just about pay for that box. We were on our own to purchase the special antenna required to pick up the signals. But this was manna from heaven to us die-hard free TV watchers.

The cost was minimal and it would pay for itself in just a few months, so it was well worth it. It came with an instruction book, and after some frustration, a few bad words and coffee breaks; I was able to get it all working correctly.

Sure, there are shows that I would like to watch and miss as they are only available if you have dish or cable. But I am able to pacify myself when I think of all the money I'm saving.

A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at carolleeolson@aol.com.