In the late summer of 1968 I sat down on the floor of my grandparent's ranch house to watch television with my father and uncle. I did not get to watch what I wanted because the Democratic Convention in Chicago was on all the channels. Back then there were only three channels.
My grandparent's television was not like the one we had at home in Dallas, Texas. Theirs was more like a piece of furniture with a small round screen in the upper part of this great wooden cabinet. It also only had a black and white picture.
The reception was not good either. The ranch was just at the end of the signal range from Fort Worth. We could only get the signal when the weather conditions were right.
The night of the convention the signal would get snowy and every so often static took over the screen. The signal came through the air back then.
There was no such thing as cable, satellite or Wi-Fi. The antenna was a great aluminum affair mounted on top of a 25 foot galvanized pole. Years before my grandfather mounted that rig on top of an old telephone pole to get the antenna even higher.
That Chicago convention turned out to be pretty exciting to watch. There were riots outside the arena and even pushing and shoving going on inside. Every time they came back from a commercial there was even more action erupting. My elders were getting on the edge of their seats watching all this stuff. I was just waiting for the fist fights to start.
Much of TV then was live. The shows were aired as they happened. If there was a mistake the audience saw it. If a politician said something, everyone heard it.
The other day I got to hear an interview with Brain L. Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, in which he discussed the future of TV.
It has changed a great deal since that summer of 1968. I am not so sure many of those changes have been for the better.
He spoke about more choice and about the ability to watch programming from more mobile devices. Roberts felt that viewer cost would actually go down some over time. Turns out it was free for my grandfather.
Receipt of the programming signal to that antenna on the ranch was free. The cost of broadcasting was paid for by commercials. Those commercials were rather interesting and they changed a lot during the year. There also were not that many commercials during a show. In 1968, 18 percent of an hour long show was devoted to commercials. Today that average is 36 percent.
The quality of today's commercials is not so great either. The art and storytelling have mostly gone.
One of my wife's and my favorite shows has a sponsor that plays the same commercial every few minutes, not just in one episode, but every episode. It is repeated as much as eight times during the show, each week. I have stopped buying their product as a result.
The news content has changed as well. Now it seems the red channel folks argue with each other and the blue channel folks do the same.
It takes its cue from the 1968 convention where the story was overshadowed by the action. The energy is away from valuable content and more toward getting people to sit on the edge of their seats. All of this is no longer free. I now have to pay a monthly fee, which is increasing annually.
Roberts believes TV will get better for most people in the future. If you look at the advertising trends and the real value of the content, I am not seeing that as getting better.
Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.