Do you remember when people had satellite dishes the size of a circus tent? They were enormous. They were expensive. Back in the day, however, if you lived in the country, they were your only ticket to TV and lots of it.
At my house we had a trusty old antenna that pulled in at least two whole channels, NBC and CBS. On a good day we might be able to tune into ABC, although it was usually fuzzier than a peach. On a really, really good day we could pull in the elusive 41, which is now FOX. Back when it was an independent station, 41 was TV gold because they played cartoons and Gilligan’s Island reruns.
But, like I said, with our antenna we only got UHF stations on rare occasions, like if the skies were clear and Saturn and Neptune were aligned. It was very hard to predict. Even with NBC and CBS, though, you’d still have to make someone go outside and turn the antenna just to fine-tune the reception.
For all you youngsters who grew up on cable and Direct-TV, an antenna is a tall, aluminum lightning rod we used to strap to our houses to get TV reception. You got better reception on different channels depending on which direction you turned the antenna.
This was a two man job. One person would go outside and rotate the antenna while their co-pilot would stand by the TV and yell a steady stream of commands out the window like, “A little more, a little more, GO BACK, GO BACK, GO BACK! Too far. TOO FAR!” Meanwhile the poor antenna turner was either freezing to death in the winter or, in the summer, getting stung by the wasps who like to build nests by our back porch.
By the time we actually got the station tuned in, the show was either already over or we forgot what we wanted to watch in the first place.