My father, rest his soul, was a huge enthusiast of VHS tapes. When the local video rental store closed, Dad rushed over there and came home with two huge video shelves. Those things were so big they reached from floor to ceiling. Those ugly old things, filled with VHS tapes marked with hand-written labels, were a big part of my childhood. I was actually a little disappointed when, in our latest move, we had no choice but to leave those shelves behind.
When we got cable TV, it came as a revelation. Clear pictures without any snow, and so many channels to choose from. There were almost 90 of them! I watched Cartoon Network back when all they aired were old Warner Bros cartoons. Back then I never could have imagined that TV could get any better. I remember how my brother's friend would constantly input the number of one of the adult channels, over and over, in the hope of seeing a nipple. I also remember, as a developing lad, staying up to watch the R rated movies.
In a way, we never moved beyond that particular era of television. My father stuck with VHS tapes well into the DVD era, unable to part with the vast collection of tapes he'd accumulated over the decades. He eventually warmed up to DVDs, but he never collected them like he did with VHS.
We moved from cable to satellite, and got even more channels. I wasn't a fan. I spent more time on the internet or playing video games than watching TV. The older I got, the less TV I watched. By the time the 2000s rolled around I was getting nearly all my entertainment online. In this way, I guess you can say I was a cord cutter long before that actually became a thing.
About 3 or 4 years ago I stopped using my DirecTV DVR altogether. The last time I used it was about a year ago, out of curiosity. I'd actually forgotten that the device was even there. It no longer accepted commands via remote control, and I didn't care. When I upgraded my entertainment center in preparation for the next gen consoles I finally threw the DVR away.
Among the upgrades was a new TV. I'd been using a refurbished 720p television that was old even when I'd purchased it in 2007. I only had that TV so I could play video games in HD, so I guess it's appropriate that I only got a 1080p television for that same reason.
I didn't think much about my new TV. To me it was just a screen for gaming. I played around with the smart tv apps, but didn't think I'd ever use them. Out of curiosity, or perhaps I was simply feeling nostalgic, I purchased a TV antenna from Amazon.com. I'd heard that you can get HD content through an antenna and I wanted to see it. I screwed in the coaxial cable, taped the antenna to a wall, and scanned for channels.
That was the moment I rediscovered television.
I had never seen such crystal clarity before. The images were so vivid it was like I was looking through a window. Even though I'd read that HD programming is available using an antenna, I was still in the mindset of the kid who constantly had to adjust the rabbit ears to get a semi-clear picture.
I've been a Netflix subscriber for some years, but I hadn't used that service as much as I probably should have, given the money I pay each month. I did watch the occasional movie, and I did go on a binge when I got into Doctor Who and when they released the new season of Arrested Development. I did all this on my computer, though, which probably explains why. My PC monitor may be good for web browsing, but it's lousy for everything else.
In fact, that moment when I plugged in that antenna was the first time I thought "this is HD!" So I start thinking "what else can I get on this thing?" Next thing I know I'm firing up Netflix and Hulu, which I normally only used at my PC. I was so used to the subpar image on my PC monitor and my ancient 720p TV, which was made by a third-rate company which went bankrupt in 2009.
It's like I traveled back in time, except not. I'm using an antenna, just like I did in the 80s and early 90s, but now I get crystal clear HD channels, at a quality that is actually superior to what you'd get from a cable or satellite provider. I'm using a TV Guide to find what to watch, but instead of a little book from the grocery store it's an app on my iPad.
The only thing I miss is having a DVR, but I guess Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video serve basically the same function.