Then and Now

One day, many years ago as I was driving to work, I heard a man on the radio speak of something that caught my attention.  He said that TV’s used to get their signal through antennas and telephones required wires.  Now phones use antennas and TV’s use wires.

From the early days of my life, I remember almost every house had a TV antenna.  When I was six, I lived in an area that had just one station and it required a high antenna to pick up that station.  Some might not remember the days when almost all houses had the antennas and it almost looked like an artificial forest of metal trees.

Now they are gone, at least most of them.  It is rare to see one of them sticking up.  It makes it easy to see those who don’t have cable.

Normally, phones had a wire on them of about ten or twelve feet.  For those willing to pay for it, longer cables could be installed so that the girls could take the phone in another room for a little privacy.

Now, most use cell phones.  The antennas on them are so small we can’t see them.  However, we no longer have cables attached to them.  Privacy is simple.  The young ladies can go into their rooms or even outside.

The odd thing about it is that lately, people have started watching TV on their phones.  So, in a sense, it has gone full circle.  The TV is using an antenna again.


In my book, “Mitch,” I point out another switch up.  In the early nineteen hundreds, people used horses.  Only the rich had cars.  They were, so to speak toys too expensive for most.  Now, most of us have cars.  Most of us can’t afford horses.  Of course, if the tree huggers have their way, we will go back to riding horses and only the elite will ride around in self-powered vehicles.

I don’t think I want to be around in that day.  Cars might spew smog, but horse manure produces disease.  Try looking up the old days in New York before cars.  That stuff did not disappear on its own, you know.

There has been a big shift in commercials too.  In my youth, the media constantly discouraged gambling.  It was seedy and only bad people did it.  Well, I guess some good people gambled too, but not on TV.  Many programs showed the good guys shutting down the gambling outfits and, of course the schools were often leading the way.

Schools, of course, did what they could to discourage gambling.  Governments at every level depicted gambling as wrong.

I blinked my eyes.  Next thing I know, it turned completely around.  Whoa to the politician that suggest shutting down the gambling.  We can’t do that.  We need the money.  By the way, it fixed nothing.  We now have the gambling and we still don’t have enough money to run the governments at every level.  Actually, it is worse than before.

They are still calling for more money for the schools.  The gambling didn’t help one bit.  I have noticed the county south of where I live allowed gambling.  They are far worse off than before.  The state had to come in and take over the school.

On the other hand, the number of people writing hot checks has skyrocketed.  Though I can’t prove it, I am sure the robberies have gone up.

There is a reason that those in the old days drove out gambling.  It would appear we can’t learn from history.  It means we are doomed to repeat it.  The difference is that now, nothing less than a miracle will get rid of it.  Now our society is more dependent on it than a druggy on heroine.  Near as I can tell, we are stuck with it and it hasn’t solved a thing.


In the movies, they used to show people smoking.  It was encouraged by tobacco companies to get people to smoke.  It worked.  Then we had a couple of generations of people dying from lung cancer.

Recently, they decided that was a bad idea.  Now, there is a big campaign to stop smoking and it is no longer seen in recent films and TV shows.  To some degree, it has succeeded.  I’ve noticed the number of people smoking, even in the military has decreased.

I think it was a good idea.  My question is, what took so long for them to figure it out.

It does make me wonder what the liquor companies are paying Hollywood to show the drinking.  Actually, drinking causes more problems than smoking.  Basically the smoker is the only one who suffers.  The drunk causes problems with almost anyone he encounters.

I wonder how long it will take society to realize that.  I wonder just how long Hollywood will continue to portray drinking as cool…the thing to do.

One day I was taking a walk.  I saw a pickup with a sticker on the back window, “My granddaughter was killed by a drunk,” or something to that effect.  I talked to the owner of the truck.  The granddaughter was two.  The drunk had been arrested twice before for drunk driving.

Sorry.  I don’t see drinking as cool.  One thing I know that no one can dispute.  No one becomes a drunk without taking the first drink.  As a society, we should discourage that first drink.  Instead, it is encouraged on every side:  TV, parties, military (though it is openly admitted that it is a big problem) and peers.


I get it, really I do.  I know you have to have your alcohol.  You say you can give it up if you want to.  You just don’t want to.  I really understand.  You just don’t want to give it up.  Fine.  Just please, don’t encourage others to drink.  You just might save the life of a two year old, maybe yours.

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Problems and Solutions with Commercials

I am coming up on my seventieth birthday.  I’ve seen my share of commercials and I have had a chance to draw a few conclusions.  In my youth, most TV shows were a half hour.  That meant about 26 or 27 minutes of program and 2 or three minutes of commercials.  Nowadays, it’s about forty minutes of program and twenty minutes of commercials.

Though the program takes up double the time, the actual program time isn’t even fifteen minutes longer.  If this keeps up, the commercial content will soon exceed the program content.

In the old days, we would have to hurry to step out to the kitchen and return with a sandwich before the program started.  Soon, I will be able to return with a 3 course meal.  I might even have time to finish eating it too.

I understand production costs have increased.  The stations are now broadcasting in color and stereo sound.  The images are larger and sharper which requires much more sophisticated equipment.  Yet, the cost of such equipment has plummeted.  The effective cost of equipment might have doubled, though I doubt it.  It does not justify the additional advertising.

There are, of course, many other costs to consider.  The payroll for the casts has certainly skyrocketed…to the degree that producers would prefer giving out large value prizes to contestants over paying a cast of half a dozen actors in a series.

The audiences were much smaller when I was a child.  I don’t know the exact differences over the years, but in my lifetime, the US population has gone from less than 50 million to over 350 million.  Back then, we didn’t all have TV’s.  Now each house has two or three.  Maybe the casts of the programs are a little greedy.  I don’t know.  I suppose some of the blame can go to the producers.

It isn’t just that the commercials are longer, they are also more annoying.  In general they have but two aims.  They want to get our attention and they want us to remember their name.  They will go to any extreme to do this.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Stupid plots
  • Horrible noises
  • Minimum clothing
  • Repetition
  • Irritation


They also resort to another trick.  They reduce the volume of the program material.  For quite a while people complained to the FCC about stations increasing volume during commercials.  The stations countered that the FCC does not allow the volume to go beyond certain limits.

What they say is true.  Having a background in electronics, I am well aware that stations can be fined for allowing the audio to exceed proper levels.  However, this does not stop the stations from decreasing the volume during the program.  It has the same effect.  I turn the volume on my TV up to hear the program, and then I must turn it down during commercials.

Commercials have also become nearly R rated.  Continually, they push the limit so that year by year, it gets worse.  When I was a child, no one had to explain why two naked people were sitting in matching bath tubs… outside.  It would be bad enough if they limited such commercials to non-family time programing, but they put the things right in the middle of the day.

Finally, one thing I have noticed about commercials is that they claim that their product weakness is its strength.  I know that is not worded well, but you will understand after a few examples.

  1. Exxon advertises safe ships… after the Valdese incidence.
  2. BP claims safe drilling practices… after their drilling rig caught fire.
  3. Wells Fargo Bank advertises honesty and integrity.
  4. All three main TV broadcasting news networks advertise news. (actually propaganda)


We do, of course have countermeasures to all these changes.  Before I go through them, let me state that I would not resort to such measure if I wasn’t being pushed to it.  However, as the commercials become worse, I must resort to some methods to fight back.

First, most of us now have some means of recording programing.  This is kind of neat.  It saves time.  I can watch a one hour program in about forty minutes.  Moreover, I can skip those parts of the program that boarder on R rating.  I have found that such parts rarely add anything substantial to the plot and it saves time when I skip them.

By using the fast forward, it basically negates all of the problems of the commercials.  I don’t have to re-adjust the volume and there is no need to explain matching bathtubs.  Most of all, it sends a signal to all those advertisers that their methods have no effect on me.

In some cases, you might want to watch something live, such as a football or baseball game.  In such cases, I push the pause button at the start of the ad.  Then I wait a minute or two and fast forward over the commercials.  In most cases, I need to repeat the process, but I find it well worthwhile.  (That will make the Super Bowl advertisers happy.)

On some occasions, I do like to push play and watch the commercials.  (As when they show the running with the bulldogs.  I really like that one.)  When the desired commercial is over, I press fast-forward again.

Of course, there is always the mute button, but this does have a little disadvantage.  You must watch the advertisements to tell when they are over.  It is always possible to remember that most advertisements are sold in fifteen second slots.  Moreover, most commercial breaks are at least two minutes.

This means that you can walk off and do other things after you’ve muted the TV.  In the event that you miss a little program material, you can rewind a little.  If you can’t, it’s likely no big deal.  There isn’t much on TV these days anyway.

Infomercials on Fox Business

I get it.  TV needs advertising.  It does get a little annoying when they show ads posing as news.  For a constant hour straight, during what was passed off as news, FBN talked about nothing but the new I-Phone and how wonderful it is.  According to them, we all need to go out and buy one immediately, if not sooner.

Sorry, I’m not going to spend a thousand dollars for something when I already have a cell phone that works just fine.  It has a camera, a calculator and even helps me find my way around town.  I even use it as a hot spot from time to time.  (It works better than my regular Internet connection in my home.)

I don’t need a $1000 phone.  I don’t want it, even if it were given to me and I certainly don’t want a news program passing off an hour ad as business news.

However, it does make me wonder.  There must have been some kind of compensation for FBN.  Just how did Apple pay Fox Business Network.  My first thought was that Apple just wrote a check to the network.  On the other hand, maybe they just provided phones for each of the those working for the network.

Of course, I could be wrong.  It is just a conclusion.  …but if I am wrong, just why did the network give a Apple a free one hour long commercial?