It was a mistake this morning to read The Rabbit-Eared Life, Judith Warner’s latest post at Domestic Disturbances (NY Times). Her family’s experience of flat screen TV without cable may have been humorous another time. Not today.
Only yesterday I decided to replace my old TV given to me by my family in 1987. I could still get pretty good reception with it from FOX, NBC, and PBS. However, CBS provided a weirdly distorted, Picasso-like version of Katie Couric on the Evening News, and ABC offered only an occasional flicker of light.
I hadn’t minded until lately when I walked through places like Best Buy and Target and noticed all those high def TV screens boldly winking at me from the shelves at the end of the aisle.
So I asked the kid in the khaki pants and red shirt at the store if he knew anything about the newer LCD models. (I’m good with LCD terminology because my computer monitor is like that.) His “Not much” ought to have slowed me down, but once I’ve made up my mind to do something, I usually go through with it.
Anyway, I selected the 15-inch Memorex, and he helped me find an antenna that he thought would work. It was mid-afternoon by then, and I’m thinking I’ll get home in time to watch the news.
I’m even a little excited as I envision taking my svelte little TV out of its box; setting it on the breakfast bar so I can view it from either the kitchen or living room; and plugging it in and turning it on: high def viewing; simple as that.
No one had explained to me the difference between analog and digital TV.
I’d bought a digital camera about a year ago, though, and I shuddered when I looked at the instruction manual for my new TV. It’s printed in the same, single-spaced 8-pt. type, interspersed with indecipherable, miniscule diagrams.
And just like my camera, every button on the TV and remote is too small and close to the next one for a normal-sized finger to press individually. Each button is also programmed for at least five or six functions as in: “Use the up volume button or the down volume button to select whatever from the onscreen menu.
I tried that routine several times before reading the next sentence, which warns that the menu will disappear if you don’t do what you’re supposed to within a few seconds.
When despite my best efforts, the screen kept flashing “no signal,” I figured maybe I should have hooked up the rabbit ears first. (Heck, my old TV would at least show a little life and make noise without an antenna.)
Before I began, I carefully reviewed the directions from the antenna box as well as those from the TV manual. Turns out, my new antenna has separate lead wires for UHF and VHF. I finally decide I’m missing a part – something called a combiner. Or maybe I just have the wrong antenna.
I gave up and watched Picasso Katie on my old TV.
It’s already past noon today, and the antenna is still standing idle next to my inoperative digital TV on my breakfast bar. And I’m not up for going back to the store.
Judith Warner’s description of her family’s rabbit-eared, digital TV experience was just too discouraging: ‘“We have a set of rabbit ears. If you adjust them to eye-gouging level, you can get a pretty good grainy picture from Fox. (“24”!) If you stand and hold one antenna, you can get a great picture from one of the Big Three – though watching “The Unit” in segments, one person on the couch and one standing behind the TV, really isn’t all that much fun.”’
Guess I can put up with my old analog’s distorted reception of CBS for a while longer.
I went back to the store later on and discovered I did have the wrong antenna. Another kid in khaki pants and red shirt sold me the right one, but I still can’t get the darned thing to work, so a pox on the rabbit-eared/digital life.