UHF. VHF. Today marks a milestone in television history. It’s the day the analog signal goes away. Forever.
I remember as a kid the stuff I would rig just to pull in stations from far away. It was a passion. It was the 1970′s and technology was yet to pass me by. I understood how things worked. I would prove to myself and my friends that my dad’s reluctance to get cable TV wouldn’t hinder my ability to get shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” “Ultraman” and “Time Tunnel.” With coaxial cable and wire clothes hangers and fishing wire I’d create a sort of middle ages technology Steve Jobs would admire. I wasn’t going to let the $7.95 my dad refused to pay each month spoil my fun.
Through the snowy, staticky signal with the vertical hold barely holding I got my fill of Japanese monsters and spooky, shadowy figures and oddball cartoons like “Clutch Cargo,” much to my dad’s chagrin.
The analog signal. It was my personal challenge to master it. It was my calling in life to harness the power of the homemade apparatus and watch shows from outside my specific viewing area in Northeastern Pennsylvania and dare luxuriate in a backwash of high-powered entertainment from NYC, Philadelphia, and Binghamton, New York — and on one rare occasion when I was at the peak of my covert powers, Washington DC.
Then, after years of begging, reverse psychology, and Academy Award winning passive-aggressive behavior, I returned from school one day to find a cable TV truck parked in front of our house. My jaw dropped.
Now I could watch the Yankees, Mets, and my beloved Phillies without the aid of Frankenstein’s lab. We had hit the big time…the legit world.
My dad and his brothers owned a movie theatre – the place I grew up in. It was wonderful and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. But TV – and especially cable TV was the competition – “the evil, dark side” as dad called it. But dad knew how much I loved watching baseball and old sci-fi flicks, and Japanese cartoons and spy thrillers. I suspect he enjoyed those things too.
And so, I said goodbye to my analog signal, sort of, that day…way back in 1977.
But there was a comfort in knowing it was still there. I had peace of mind knowing that if I had to, if I really had to use my jury rigging skills to find forbidden entertainment I could still do it — through the airwaves.
But, alas, today is the day it all goes away forever. June 12, 2009. Mark it down folks. The final day. Moved from the original February 17 proposed date, June 12 will forever be the day that everyone, young and old must succumb to digital television via cable or satellite.
After today, the days of picking up a signal out of the air will be gone. And no wire clothes hanger or coaxial cable or fishing wire is going to make a damn bit of difference.
Because – there’s nothing out there. Nothing but snow and static, and the shadows of our childhood.