Those were the days …


If you happen to be below the age of, say, 40, chances are you possess little memory of a time before the Video Age kicked in. So here is a little primer on the way things used to be:

>Until the 1970s, all TV was free and distributed over the public airwaves. There was no cable, no satellite, no Cinemax, no MTV, no ESPN, no VCRs, no DVD players, no home computers, no Internet, no cell phones or DVRs and very little home video. If you wanted to watch "The Wizard of Oz," you caught it when CBS played it, with commercials, once a year. If you missed it, you'd have to wait another 12 months for the next opportunity.

>When VCRs came out, if you had a hankering to buy a movie to watch on one, you could expect to plunk down 100 bucks a pop.

>HD? Oh sure. That stood for "heavy distortion." LCD meant "lowest clarity device," and "on demand" was what we called it when someone ordered their spouse or child to get up from the couch and change the channel because the remote had run out of juice. That is, of course, if you had a remote.

>The composition of your TV signal often was contingent on which direction the wind was blowing. You had a large metal antenna on your roof that pulled in reception, and the funny little contraption atop your TV controlled how much snowy interference intruded on the video and sound. It often improved dramatically if a human hand grasped it, so families would have members take turns standing at the TV stiffly holding the antenna as if in the throes of rigor mortis.

Yep, we've come a long way, baby. But there's still a long way to go.