Tom Stangl

The pace of change in our society never ceases to amaze me. Driven by technologies that seem to accelerate at an exponential rate, items that seem to be universally understood by a person like me, born in the second half of the last century, now require lengthy explanations.

Occasionally these items come to the surface and I am struck by change that has occurred in my lifetime. One of these moments occurred recently during a visit by the grandchildren.

We were looking to find something to watch on television and I was scrolling through the channel guide. There were programs scheduled to run in the coming hour that caught the eye of my 11 year old granddaughter. We had to wait to watch them, something she was unaccustomed to doing.

In her household, everything is on demand. Through the streaming services offered by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, nearly everything my granddaughter watched could be viewed as quickly as the internet could buffer it to their device. Waiting was something she wasn’t accustomed to doing.

While watching a program with commercials, (something else that is a bit foreign to her) there was an ad for an upcoming Disney movie that had yet to be released. “Let’s go see that movie tonight, Papa,” she said. “It’s not out yet,” I replied, explaining the concept of hype — get you excited about a movie, so you go to the theater. When you notice that the movie you want to see isn’t showing, you go to another movie instead because, well, you’re there already and want to see a movie.

Yes, this is a shallow and calculated strategy. Almost as shallow as making parents the bad guys when they explain that the movie you want to see won’t be out for two months.

After the weekend, I pondered how many incarnations of the entertainment cycle I have lived through. It was a rather depressing exercise.

Back in the day, my parents had a black and white television. We received three broadcast channels and had to manually change the channel. In fact, my siblings and I acted as a pioneering “universal remote” when our father insisted we get up to change the channel. I imagine some of you did the same for your parents, whether you wanted to do so or not.

In those days, the three networks bid for first rights to movies. As I left high school, video cassettes came into vogue and home rentals. This evolved into digital video discs (DVDs) before rental stores went out of business. No more “be kind, rewind.”

My parents were able to get color and then cable television and a real remote control. I believe the first cable system they subscribed to had 13 channels. Home Box Office (HBO) got the first “broadcast” rights to movies.

In my lifetime I had satellite television – first a 10 foot “C” band dish and now the smaller dishes used by DISH network and DirecTV. As internet speeds improved, on demand services encouraged many to “cut the cord” from cable and satellite TV.

I can only imagine what’s next as virtual reality becomes more common. How long before the movies are holographic projections in your living room?

One thing is bound to be constant. No matter how many channels you have, there still won’t be anything worth watching.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.

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