Remembering Home Theaters of the Past

  • My first DVD player (03 July 1998) was a graphics card and drive for my IBM Aptiva computer. I watched movies on a 15 inch CRT screen and loved the heck out of it. I remember how impressive was it to see movies like “The Rock” for the first time in widescreen in the middle of a computer monitor. Even at such a tiny size, you still knew the picture quality was much greater than VHS.

So damned primitive, it was. Now, my 46″ widescreen television is too small for me, but I know there comes a point where one has to make a choice between art and finance. You can only afford so much. . .

  • My Commodore 64 monitor was used at one point as a TV, also. I had an older VCR hooked into it. I remember pausing through “Tiny Toons” learning to draw from that.

  • That first DVD player didn’t last long. Bought a standalone DVD player that Christmas for $199, I think. Maybe $299? Tough to recall. Looked much better on the 27 inch TV screen in the living room, complete with surround sound system that was a repurposed Cambridge Soundworks system sold normally for computer games, I guess. It wasn’t until 2001 that I bought a new Sony Trinitron TV that did anamorphic widescreen on a 4:3 CRT, and looked stunning. “Stunning” was by the standards of the time. Widescreen TVs were available at that point, but not yet practical. There wasn’t much at all on TV in 16:9 format, and HD was still years away.

  • We went through a few VCRs in my family from the time we got our first (I’m guessing 1985). What amazes me, in retrospect, was the different ways those VCRs marked time. Most of them measured time in what we called “blocks.” Our first had a physical counter — three scroll wheels that spun in time with the VHS tape. You could push a button to reset the counter to 0. So you knew the next episode of “Tiny Toons” started 100 blocks later.

Problem is, the next VCR had a new measuring scheme, and so your “blocks” were useless.

  • Perhaps the greatest limitation of the VCR was that you couldn’t watching something back from the beginning while you were taping it. Today, that’s the cornerstone of my DVR habit, which has prevented me from watching TV commercials for the past decade.

  • I got my first TiVo as a Christmas present in 2000, I believe it was. I quickly paid for the lifetime subscription. My parents are still using that unit. It’s made that $300 back and then some. I later upgraded to the Humax TiVo that included a DVD burner. Didn’t get as much use out of that DVD burner as I thought I might, but it came in handy a few times. Thankfully, I paid month to month on it, so I didn’t lose money on the deal.

  • The TV I grew up watching was on the floor, built into a piece of wooden furniture, on top of which sat the living room’s main lamp light and, of course, the cable box. We had several cable boxes, from ones that had thirteen switches across to ones that you slid a pointer along the line of channels to change stations. We were years away from a remote.

And the TV had a physical issue in it where the screen would suddenly and randomly get very dark. The brightness just dropped right off the scale. A simple slap to the side of the TV (often during “Cheers,” it seemed) did the trick to brighten it back up.

  • I remember MTV when it still had music, Nickelodeon when it ran black and white sit-comes in the middle of the afternoon (“My Three Sons,” “Mr. Ed,” et. al.), and HBO when it had “Fraggle Rock.” A cornerstone of my Sunday mornings was watching Hanna Barbera cartoons of the 70s on USA Network. Remember when cable TV didn’t really go past channel 27? Or 36?

Sorry, just had to write that all down. I was feeling old today.

3 thoughts on “Remembering Home Theaters of the Past

  1. Well, look at the bright side….we lived through the pioneering years of home entertainment. Seriously. I can remember having to actually TURN THE KNOB! Damn, that old Zenith lasted 20+ years. Now, I can not only appreciate the new cutting edge technology, but afford to buy it and hug it softly at night before I got to bed…well, not really hug it. That would be weird .

    And I used to SELL these things! When the first home inkjet printers came out, I was there. When a 35″ TV was as big as a volkswagon and just as heavy, I was there. Home surround sound? Cell phones the size of bricks? Camera’s that still used film? Video camera’s that used FULL SIZED VHS tapes? The sony Disk Man? Playing Doom before there was such a thing as 3D Acceleration. I sold all that stuff. So yeah, there’s a lot to feel old about, but it was still good times!

  2. the 80’s had alot of fun shows on the tv for kids on hbo. Shelly Duvall’s fairy tale theater, braingames, encyclopedia…. :sigh: now it’s all crap.. i remember when nick at nite first began.. with f-troop, get smart, mork and mindy, mr ed, all those good shows.

  3. Phil – And we both bought our first DVD boxes together at, what, a CompUSA? Probably the one in Parsippany, right? I don’t think the one on Rte 46 was open yet at that point, was it?

    But, yeah, kids today don’t know how easy they have it. Their biggest problem is in managing too many remote controls.

    And remember the digital camera that wrote to floppy discs? The Mavica, it was. Oh, man, and we used to play Doom on black and white laptops with passive matrix displays. Ridiculously awesome, too.

    Porkspam – I’ll one up you and go with Magic Garden, which is now out on DVD. I think it was local to this NYC area, though. Don’t know that it ever went national.

    I’m glad I got to see so much classic TV as a kid on Nick. You can still find lots of old stuff deep in cable, but it’s not nearly as easy as we’d all like to think.

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