“He was cable, when cable wasn’t cool.”
The above title is an actual song about Ted Turner—the king of cable.
Well, at least he was in the early 1980s.
I don’t remember life before cable, but I do remember my parents having cable installed. We had a channel switching box that sat on top of the television. If you moved the button at the perfect speed, you could scan the channels and find something to watch in one smooth motion. I mastered the move.
Cable meant that we had access to the best cultural programming possible.
I could watch professional wrestling from all over the country.
The channel changing box eventually wore out and a cable ready TV with remote control took over. Cable, with its 50 plus channels, continued to dominate. Only the socially rebellious allowed those oversized saucer-shaped satellite dishes in their backyards. Those home owners probably voted Independent.
But, satellite would not be denied. When Donna and I moved from an apartment to our first home in 2001, a much smaller saucer was attached to the south side of the house.
Next, this thing called a TiVo showed up. You could record and watch your shows when you wanted. I’ve never known an Enoch, by blood anyway, who could program a VCR, so TiVo was liberating. Of course, every service now offers DVR.
In the spring of 2013, Donna and I found ourselves in an interesting position. We had been kicking around the idea of cancelling our satellite service. Netflix allowed the girls to watch just about anything they wanted. With services like Hulu and network websites, Donna and I could watch new shows shortly after broadcast.
Once we knew we were moving to Jackson, we made the call and cancelled satellite.
This cancellation prompted an immediate trip to Best Buy. Network television began to broadcast digitally not too long ago. To watch it, you need a digital antenna. No rabbit ears in the twenty first century. The antenna is just a flat box, about the size of a large piece of pizza.
In Bartlett, the antenna picked up about twenty stations in HD. At our rental house in Jackson, we received five channels. Our new home, south of our church’s neighborhood, picks up three.
Now, none of this bothers me. The only time I really miss satellite is during football season. I have to watch whatever CBS shows. On Saturday, that’s fine. The SEC is on. On Sunday, it’s not fine. The Titans are on.
So, why all this rambling about the history of my television viewing?
Let me tell you what happened this past Sunday.
I had the house all to myself. Donna and the older two were at camp with the church and the younger two were with my parents. After church, I decided to eat my lunch in the living room. I turned on the TV to see what was playing on the three channels our antenna receives.
What I found to watch was amazing.
This blond headed guy was really excited about what he could do for me. He was offering free television. Can you imagine that? We could have TV for free. I only needed to order their digital antenna and hook it up to my set. He promised me that I wouldn’t have to pay a dime for any of the programming.
He was correct.
I was watching him, for free, through the exact medium he was peddling.
My biggest frustration was that no one was home to experience this irony with me. (Hence, this blog.)
Free television has always been around. We just walked away from it when Ted Turner started showing the Braves and Georgia Championship Wresting.
Haven’t we all been down this road before?
Have we made a complete circle?
The commercial fails to mention that the viewer has no control over the programming. They can only watch what’s on. How many people paid $19.99 without realizing this? I’d hate to know.
While I admire the seller’s marketing ingenuity, the whole situation makes me shake my head. They are selling people the very thing that has always been around, as if new.
Ecclesiastes 1:9–11 says, “9 That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.”
This truth means that the things we experience in this fallen world are not new to the experience of humanity. The repackaging of consumer products has little eternal impact, but the same old sin and temptation with a new logo and paint job leads to death, according to James 1:15.
Every generation has been tempted to deny truth, to recognize evil as good, and to make an idol of self. None of these temptations and none of our own sinful leanings are new under the sun.
Everything old is new again.
Christians must accept that this world is not our home, even if it does offer DVR service. Through our relationship with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can understand that the world offers a lie and that God provides the truth.
If we keep our eyes open and fixed on the author and finisher of our faith, then we will see these old things for what they are and avoid the traps reset for each generation.
The packaging may be new, but the dangers, deceptions, and consequences are the same.