From Rabbit Ears To HDTV: Boomers Have Seen It All

We watch television differently now.

We watch what we want when we want. We are no longer slaves to some network's schedule.

We all have cable. Granted, most of cable's hundreds of channel offerings are not of interest, but as highly skilled operators of the modern remote we easily click around this problem.

Many of us are into series, 10- or 12-episode dramas that run weekly and conclude with just enough of a cliff hanger to bring us back for the next season.

Right now I am following "The Newsroom," "Ray Donovan," and "The Bridge." When these series conclude it will be time for some of my other favorites to begin: "Homeland," "Treme," "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones," and eventually "Downton Abbey."

Another way we view television now is to "binge," take a weekend or whatever and watch an entire series, one episode after another. As soon as I figure out how Netflix works, I plan to do that with "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black."

Baby boomers, of course, were there when it all started, when the television screen occupied a small space within a large cabinet and not an entire wall.

The picture was black and white and snowy, the sound scratchy, the programming … well, it ran the gamut from "I Love Lucy," to "Howdy Doody," to "The Ed Sullivan Show," which is not to be confused with "Mr. Ed."

The family situation comedies were so squeaky clean and G-rated — "Leave It to Beaver," "The Adventures (they had adventures?) of Ozzie and Harriet" — that it often made you wonder what was wrong with your family.

The early technology was crude, and reception in particular was always challenging. Most houses had antennas, which had to be constantly turned to capture the signal from the network you were hoping to watch.

If you didn't have an outside antenna you had to rely on a pair of rabbit ears that sat on top of set, and for some reason worked better if a wad of aluminum foil was attached to one of the tips. Of course, sometimes that wasn't enough. Sometimes you had to make your little brother stand in the corner on one leg holding the rabbit ears above his head to get the picture to come in.

Yeah, when it comes to the "boob tube," boomers have come a long way, baby.

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