Television is an old friend. I was born in Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast at the same time as the first television signals were being beamed into our small isolated community during the 1970s. So TV has been part of my life as long I can remember. We had access to only three, or sometimes four, channels, but as far as we were concerned that was normal. However, we soon discovered that advertisements on our few TV channels offered subscriptions to install cable TV services that gave subscribers access to over 100 channels and movie stations. Wow, what a shock.
During the 80s, we all yearned for the freedom to surf through dozens of channels that played the latest blockbuster films. Some neighbours even went through the expensive and technically difficult task of setting up a huge satellite television receiver in their backyards. Those few families who had this set up came back with stories of flipping through numerous channels. However, they also talked about fuzzy reception, lock outs and technical glitches. That huge dish also stuck out like a magnet and attracted neighbourhood kids that used it as though it was something you would find in a playground. It came in handy as a target for mud balls, rocks and snowballs.
In my teens, I moved to North Bay, where my eyes were really opened to the wonderful world of multi-channel TV. On my return home to Attawapiskat it was a bit of a disappointment to be faced with that old set and just a few channels. The big breakthrough came in the early 1990s, as our small town became a little more closely connected to the outside world when we got our own local cable service that offered as many as channels we could afford.
I soon discovered that being able to flip through a hundred channels was not all that I had imagined. At times I found myself surfing through endless channels and finding nothing I wanted to watch. The programs I did want to see were half way done or they would not appear for an hour or two later. As a solution, I continued searching only to get lost in the activity of repeatedly pressing the up and down channel buttons. I was manic.
It seems that the entertainment we enjoy on a monitor is constantly evolving as technology makes everything more accessible, cheaper and faster. Several years ago, I began accessing the internet which gave me the ability to read news stories, articles and websites about anything and everything. In a matter of a few years, I soon discovered that I had to switch from dial up internet service to high speed because most of the content I was looking at required a faster connection. At the same time, I was reading less and instead accessing more video content.
I am happy to report that my life at the front of a monitor has taken a new twist once more. I had started watching documentaries and films on my little monitor in the office. It was interesting but uncomfortable and difficult to view. After going through many evenings of watching full length programs with a headset, sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair at my desk and in front of a monitor that was just a few inches from my face, I realized something. Why not just plug my living room television onto the internet? I set up a laptop with some simple connections to the television, an Ethernet cable to my high speed internet and then bought a wireless keyboard to control my setup from the comfort of my sofa.
There may be better setups out there that use the latest connectors, cables and devices. The picture on my older 32-inch CRT television is not as good as those new LCD and Plasma sets and my connection is not state of the art. Still, I can watch whatever I want and when want to. I am on the leading edge of a very fast trend that everyone will be enjoying in the next few years. Television is changing into internet multimedia and that suits me just fine. There are already many websites that feature online documentary films, movies and television shows without the advertising breaks. I can go searching for whatever content I want, play it and if I don’t like it then I can stop it. If I miss something in the show, I can just rewind with the click of a button.
Now, when I go to sit down at the television, I just connect to the internet, find old reruns of long lost programs, watch interviews with rare celebrities and personalities or take in informative independent documentaries that would never be played on a commercial network. I can even watch video and TV productions from all over the world. That old Disneyland theme song keeps coming to mind when I connect to the world on my new multimedia set up, “It’s a small world after all…”