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Monday, March 8, 2010

I Was An Early 80s Universal Remote

With the shirt shops giving me a little extra income I thought that perhaps it was finally time to get that big screen for the Man Cave. I started looking around just before Black Friday and found that the prices were better than what was being advertised for Black Friday. It’s all a scam really. The deep discounts on big ticket items are for ones that are usually discontinued in favor of the newest model year. I don’t have a problem with that but if I’m going to spend the money on something like that I want to make sure I’m not buying myself a totally obsolete piece of electronic crap. I want somewhere in the middle.

Here’s what I’ve finally narrowed the selections down to in terms of brand and features.

Brand: SONY or Vizio

Resolution: 1080p

Refresh Rate: 120Hz

Expected Usage: Video Games and Movies, possibly sports.

Price Range: $600-$900 (I’m a cheap bastard)

Right now the sets seem to be on sale and I’m looking to start a price war between retailers. Best Buy is trying to undercut the Sears store across the way near my home and I was actually eyeing up a 40” BRAVIA floor model for $529. I figured I might be able to knock another $100 off if I really tried. It all depends on what comes with it in terms of accessories and warranty. We’ll see. Sears also has a 40” Eco type SONY set for $779 discounted down from $879. If it’s not 120 Hz I’m not even entertaining it. I have a little bit of time as the set is on sale until April 3rd.

But all this got me to thinking about childhood. Back then, we didn’t have flat screens. We had big bulky CRT models with the surrounding cabinet made of fine wood grain. It seemed like the greater ratio of wood to actual tv was a status symbol more than anything else. Problem was, once the set blows, you pretty much have a big piece of furniture that doesn’t do anything but hold another, smaller, CRT television. My house was ahead of the curve when it came to the old Jeff Foxworthy bit about having a working TV sitting on top of a non working TV which makes you a red neck.

Oh yes, the old big ass set on the floor was a huge deal. I remember it was an old RCA that at the end of its lifespan would get really bright and then go off by itself. You could usually anticipate having to get up off the couch and walk over to it as this was happening so that the turning the set off and then on again could be seamless.

And let’s not even discuss having cable. I spent the better part of my childhood watching HBO in a fuzzy picture with a repetitive chit, chit, chit, sound accompanying the dialogue. We had a small alligator clipped box attached to screws on the back of the set that tuned in the UHF channels. When we moved into a newer house, we started getting cable and decided to just pay for HBO. I couldn’t believe how clear the picture and sound was. It was like entering the land of Oz. I would suspect that switching from CRT to LCD might have the same emotional effect but I doubt it.

In any case, there for awhile in the new house we still had the floor model, which meant big ass wood grain set, and one in the kitchen that had a dial box sitting on top of it to get channels above 13. It was a black and white model that followed me all through college and a year or two afterwards. It was a good little set *sniff*. However, in either case, one thing remained the same, no remote. It’s not like we lost it in the seat cushions, no, both sets did not have a remote control for them. It wasn’t until we had a VCR that we had one. In fact the first VCR we did have came with a remote that had a long cord connecting it to the VCR. Simply put, us kids were the remote control. We usually sat on the floor, within inches of the screen, open jawed in Carol Anne Freeling type trance. When a commercial came on or the show ended, we usually got a verbal command to go change the channel. We were the early 80s equivalent of the universal remote. Change the channel, get me a drink, answer the phone, mow the lawn. Universal Remotes in the early 80s had more functionality than just controlling electronic devices.

Now, we have fifteen thousand remotes in a household because you need one for the television set, one for the cable box, one for the home theater, one for the DVD player, and, if you are still living in the 20th century, one for the VCR. And if I hear any kids out there say, “What’s a VCR?” I’m liable to snap. I got two words for you, Laserdisc and Betamax. Ok, I’ve found my happy place.

So, eventually, I’m going to break down and get that Man Cave big screen. And regardless of technological advances I’ll still have an early 80s universal remote which is updated to a 2007 model. Except, in this case, my kid turns the TV off when I don’t want her to. Maybe I should check the batteries. I’m pretty sure she’s out of warranty. God, I hope that’s all it is. I don’t have the money to get a new model.


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