In the middle of the twentieth century, televisions were a rare luxury item. By the end of the twentieth century, almost every home in the developed nations had one.


Image: The Science Museum Group Collection. Creative Commons. History of Television

Wikipedia. History of Television

My mother can remember going over to a relative’s house because they had a television and most people didn’t. In my own childhood, although most shows were broadcast in color (and only had been for a few years) we had a black-and-white set. It was a huge console, about six feet across, although the screen itself was less than thirty inches. As a piece of furniture, the only larger piece in the living room was the couch.

Sometime in the mid seventies, we got a color television. We got NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and maybe one or two others. We had to get up to change the channel. My sister and I were limited to how much television we could watch each day. We would often pool our time, agreeing on one show and sharing time on others. Star Trek was usually the first thing we agreed on!

Today, my eighteen-year-old and ten-year-old daughters don’t care too much about television. They both prefer YouTube, watching whatever catches their eye whenever they want to. My teen does like a few shows such as AFV and The Voice, and we are showing our ten-year-old classic shows such as Mr. Ed and The Dick VanDyke Show. It’s a big culture shock to her.


Do you remember your family’s first television? Do you watch shows as they air, or do you have a different way to watch?

6 thoughts on “Development: Television

  1. We used to have a tv when I was a kid. It looked very similar to the one in the picture, but ours had a dial. We would have to get up and turn the dial (which only had maybe 6 numbers on it) to change the channel. That was the early 80’s.


  2. I remember our first TV. Black and white of course. I remember one of my mother’s friends siding with me to watch the TV, father than practice dance. I appreciated that, but the TV was very new to us, so that didn’t last too long. Prior to that, my sister and I would walk to our aunt and uncle (about a block away or less) on Saturday mornings to watch the westerns and some cartoons Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. Cuddles the big black dog would watch with us. The first color TV I remember was purchased after I was married and had children.


  3. Our TV was a little black and white set with two nobs – UHF aand VHF. As a kid I had no way deal what those nobs did, but I’d fiddle with them until I had a picture I could see with relative clarity.

    When the Wizard of Oz came on (once a year), we’d sit on my parents’ bed and watch it. You know that bit when Dorothy walks out of the house, having just been dropped by the tornado into Oz, and suddenly the world transforms from black and white into Technicolor? I was in junior high before I found out the entire movie wasn’t black and white.

    My sister and I would sit and watch Saturday morning cartoons, but in order to get a station in clearly one of us had to sit and hold the nob between the two and the three. Neither of us wanted to do it, bit we both wanted to see the Roadrunner drop poor Wiley E. off a cliff. Eventually I rigged something out of a hanger and some rubber bands to hold the nob in place.

    Our friends had “real” tv. We’d go to their house for dinner regularly and their son and I would watch The Dukes of Hazard. Another couple occasionally babysat my sister and I, and we’d watch The Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island. I recently caught a rerun of The Love Boat on TV and discovered a deep sense of discomfort when the next theme song I heard WASN’T for Fantasy Island. The two are inextricably linked for me.

    Then, in 1984 we were getting ready to move and my parents turned the back bedroom into a TV room of sorts, and they got cable for the first time. The very first time I had an opportunity to watch it was on a Monday afternoon at 2:00pm.

    I’d been at a swim meet on the other side of the state all weekend, and we’d gotten back very late. So late that my parents decided that I didn’t have to go to school the next day. A friend stayed home with me, and when we finally woke up I couldn’t wait to turn on the TV and try the little push buttons on the cable box. The first channel we tried turned out to be MTV. And the very first music video I ever watched was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. What an introduction!


    1. I had that same revelation watching The Wizard of Oz!
      It was only on once a year, so of course watching it was a big deal.
      I think I was in late elementary when I first saw the movie in color.
      (Note: NCNarrator is just a few months younger than me.)


  4. The first TV I remember us having was a black in white TV with rabbit ears. It only got about 5 channels. We did play some coleco-vision games on it but it was hard because of the lack of color.

    I remember when my grandparents got a VCR and we could watch movies that were not on TV at that moment. We watch this tape of The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe – over and over again. It was an animated version.

    Once we got a color TV and VCR, I decided to try the automatic tape feature. Where you set it up, on the channel and told it what time to tape. I made a little mistake on the channel and ended up taping an entire hour of the weather network, instead of the X-Files. My family teased me about that for years.
    (Born in late 1978)


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