By Rick Fromm
By Rick Fromm

     As a youth – not far removed from the days when people communicated by drums and smoke signals – I can distinctly remember the advent of color television. We were in awe -- our mouths agape in unbridled wonder when we first witnessed the NCB peacock standing proudly in living color. It was a wonder to behold.

Not only was color added to our viewing pleasure, at about the same time the top-of-the-line television sets featured remote control – which allowed you to actually change the channel or mess with the volume without having to get out of your recliner. It was a telecommunications miracle and huge console TV units featuring color, remote and all the other bells and whistles were being purchased as soon as they hit the showroom floor.

My parents, much to my chagrin, were somewhat slow on the draw when it came to forking out the dough for a fancy, shmancy new Zenith or RCA or whatever. But eventually the day came when they pulled out the checkbook and made the commitment. It was a happy day indeed.

One must keep in mind, however, that our unbridled joy was tempered by the fact we only got three or four channels. Period. It was either NBC, ABC, CBS or a blank screen featuring the test pattern that nobody under the age of 60 can relate to.

With the exception of the Wonderful World of Disney and cartoons on Saturday morning, the viewing options for a pre-pubescent boy (or girl) were extremely limited. Put another way, if you didn’t want to sit down with your parents and watch Dr. Kildare starring Richard Chamberlain in the lead roll, then you were out of luck – as in go read a book.

A few years, even decades, passed and then, wonder of wonders, it happened: cable television. By subscribing to the cable TV package of your choice, you suddenly had 10, 20, 50 or 100 channels from which to choose. See ya later Dr. Kildare. Make that good riddance.

Nowadays, of course, we have hundreds upon hundreds of options for our viewing pleasure. If I had to say exactly how many channels I have at my disposal, I doubt I could come up with the exact number. Suffice it to say, it’s a whole bunch.

And while the myriad of choices may seem like overkill to many individuals, I’m quite the opposite. The more the merrier in my opinion. Increased options directly translate into higher quality programs. No longer do we have to settle for something that’s either of little or no value at all, or, put more bluntly, is downright stupid and an insult to the intelligence of most high school graduates.

While I enjoy documentaries, or news features or true-to-life stories immensely, and appreciate being informed about things of which I have limited knowledge, there are other times when I just want to be entertained. A 42-inch Toshiba that offers 163 different channels solves that problem for me. In other words, if I can’t find a show that amuses me or keeps me informed with 163 choices, then perhaps it’s time for me to re-evaluate my life.

My journey through the land of television has gone from the stone-age era to the advantages of high-tech, state-of-the-art TVs, remotes, recording devices, surround sound and so on and so forth. We’ve come a long, long way from the 12-inch black and white boob tube that was fuzzy and had poor quality sound to the 120-inch beasts of today that offer a larger screen than most drive-in theaters did some decades ago. (Don’t know what a drive-in theater is? Pity.)

 Armed with my do-everything remote control, I am the master of my TV rather than the other way around. In the 21st century, I don’t adjust my schedule according to the television’s agenda … I make it adjust to mine.

 As a classic example, the other night I encountered the perfect storm of viewing options. A huge fan of American Pickers (telling the story of America one piece at a time), I enjoy watching it a great deal – especially since the “Pickers” are from Iowa.

But on this particular night -- at approximately the same time -- the Cleveland Cavaliers were taking on the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, the San Jose Sharks were skating against the St. Louis Blues in the NHL Western Division finals and the red-hot Chicago Cubs were squaring off against their No. 1 rival: the St. Louis Cardinals.

By using the remote to its maximum potential, I was able to watch American Pickers and also keep track of the three major sporting events. If the games were close as time was running out, I would simply switch the channel to that contest until a clear winner was obvious. Thanks to modern technology and the wonder of cable television, I saw the critical moments in each game and still kept track of the Pickers. Oh happy day.

I often reflect on the amazing advances we’ve made with our television offerings, and I’m pleased as punch with the results. I also don’t miss Dr. Kildare at all. Not even a little bit. Sorry Mom.