“Just a second, I’ll run up and grab the batteries out of another remote upstairs” I said with a sigh.
“Don’t worry, I got this” he said nonchalantly pointing his phone towards the cable receiver.
“What are you going to do, text a delivery service and order us some batteries?” I joked.
He rolled his eyes as he replied, “No, it will just take me a second to find that cable box.”
I sat back down and watched with what I can only assume is the anticipation shared by a nation as the astronauts first set foot on the moon. A few nimble swipes left to right and then up and down followed by a couple of taps of the screen and eureka, exodus from the HGTV wasteland.
“What kind of sorcery is that?”, I exclaimed pointing towards his phone that now appeared to have a new found glow surrounding it.
He glanced up at me with just a hint of condescension.”I can Skype with someone in South Korea, that is pretty cool I guess,” he quipped, “but the fact that I can magically control an electronic box five feet in front of me does not seem that magical.”
Granted his phone is the size of a small tablet and probably has more capabilities than I to know about, but he was missing the point, possibly because he lacked my perspective.
It is hard to grasp where we have come from in a relatively short time since advancements or updates as they are called, are so common place, even expected. Maybe we should call them the .0 generation because the next update is always on the way.
Unfortunately for him I felt it was my responsibility to share with him just how hard life once was…. at least when it came to televisions.
“Could you mute the T.V. for me?” I said clearing my throat. “From the time I was two until your Uncle was able to walk and take orders I was your Granddads remote. Sometimes I even served as an antenna.”
“I know… I know… my generation doesn’t realize just how easy we have it, blah, blah, blah..” he interrupted.
I realized this diversionary tactic before he even finished his sentence. “That might work on your mother, but I’m not biting.” Composing myself I continued. “As I was saying, before there were 50 inch flat screens and fancy cable boxes, televisions had knobs, heck sometimes they had pliers if the knobs broke…. but I am getting ahead of myself.”
He let out a long sigh realizing that he was about to get a rundown of the steps leading up to his phone controlling the TV.
“The first device we had for remotely controlling any function was a simple whistle switch that turned the TV off and on,” I began.
“You mean like the clapper?” he quickly interjected.
“No, the clapper is spaced age compared to this. This was basically a soft plastic pad that you pushed to make a short whistle like sound,” the lesson continued, “The only thing you could do was shut it off and on, but this meant no longer having to get off the couch to do so. In time your uncle and I were able to mimic the sound it made and we could shut the set off and on from the adjoining rooms, much to your granddad’s delight.”
“So how did you change the channel?” he questioned, still awake to some degree.
“Up and down more than a Methodist on Sunday morning…. luckily there were only five channels. Imagine my anticipation when I was ten and we got our first color TV. It came with a remote; I can still see it in my hand. It was flat on the face and round on the back and had only five buttons, which was all it needed.”
“Yeah I’ve seen black and white TV,” he chimed in, “it’s called Nick at Nite I think.”
“Similar, but possibly you’re missing the point,” I rebutted. “Black and white was all that we had… it wasn’t just a channel, it was all the channels. The remote wasn’t just a device that enabled us to change channels, it was a magic wand.”
“You mean like Bewitched? I think that is on Nick at Nite too?” he asked with a smile.
Thinking, I paused for a moment and smiled back. It would seem that the advances and struggles of each generation’s parents were often lost to the progression of time. I remember giving my dad a hard time when he talked about the good ol’ days of gathering around the radio on Saturday nights. Generally we don’t get nostalgic about change until we have lived for a few decades but that didn’t mean I would stop trying to pass on the struggles of my generation. At the very least I can look forward to my son having the same discussion with his kids someday, because if there is one thing you can count on, it is change.