3/30/11

Zenith UHF Television - Let the cartoons begin.

So maybe your parents are complaining about "that new television thing that means my old TV won't work any more". Maybe they're behaving as if nothing like this has ever happened before. Well, if they're old enough, they should be able to remember going through the horrors of technological advancement before. If they're REALLY old enough, they may have trouble remembering things in general. P.A.G. has reported in the past about the early days of color television and how people were worried their TVs would explode or cease to exist or whatever. That also happened in 1949 when UHF broadcast frequencies promised to bring a new world of reruns and cartoons into your home (eventually). Thankfully, Zenith was ready.
I guess the tuner in the TV had to be designed to accept frequencies above the previous ceiling of (I think ) 300 MHz. The Wikipedia article gets super geeky and I don't have a degree in that kind of geekery, so a quick skim of the information will have to do. Also, I have to give a squash lesson in thirty minutes.

The benefit of broadening the frequency spectrum of television broadcasts opened up room for more channels, which people probably wanted. It wouldn't be necessity keep old TVs from working, but in order to get the new UHF channels on your old VHF, you'd have to buy a converter. Sound familiar?

Zenith sounds pretty cranked about their "Giant Circle Screen", which seems horrible at first, but when I think about it, a circle may be more like the natural field of human vision. I mean, my eyeballs' view of the world sure isn't a 16:9 rectangle. but that's what I'm used to. Considering the shape of each eye's field of view, and the overlap in the middle for stereoscopic vision, it's probably more like a squashed oval. So, this goofy circle makes as much sense as anything, I suppose, even though it's clearly a stupid idea. It's all a matter of the resolution and whether the Giant Circle is a cropped version of a rectangle or vice versa.

All of this stuff is tricky for my giant future-brain to understand. Pity the poor troglodytes of 1949 trying to grasp the reason their old TV won't get the new channels.

What I recall of my kidhood was that, for some reason the shitty black and white TV in the kitchen got the UHF channels better than channels 2 and 5. This was fine with me, because UHF was home to channels 32 and 44. Ch. 32 later became Field Communications and even later, FOX. Channel 44 went "en espanol" some time in the early eighties I think. But before that happened, Channel 32 was where you could go to catch Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry on Super Cartoon Sunrise, and the various horrible Hanna Barbera shows in the afternoon. UHF was where I saw my first Anime, in the form of Speed Racer (original name: Mach Go Go Go), Battle of the Planets (original name: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman), Space Giants (original name: Ambassador Magma)  and Ultraman (original name: Urutoraman). Also, channel 44 ran the reliably freaky Spider-Man cartoon, as animated by the reliably stoned Ralph Bakshi.


Now these shows are available in various easily accessed forms like DVD and YouTube, which is better I guess. I'd like to buy a DVD of these shows with atmospheric interference and static in the picture. Better still, I can just get the DVDs and watch them through a horrible old TV. Hmm. Food for thought.



3 comments:

Craig said...

We had Channel 38 and Channel 56 in Boston.

TV38 was awesome. In addition to all the Red Sox and Bruins games, they had the Three Stooges franchise. It also had a show called "The Movie Loft" with this local radio schlub named Dana Hersey. It was sort of a predecessor to Turner Classic Movies, where he'd introduce a movie every night, give some information about it, talk some trivia after the commercial breaks.

It was my introduction to all the great movies of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I watched snowy, half scrambled copies of Bullitt, Vanishing Point, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, In the Heat of the Night, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the bizarre Alan Alda film The Mephisto Waltz on the Movie Loft.

Over at 56, they had the Creature Double Feature anchor on Saturdays. Four hours of Japanese monster movies. Awesome. They also regularly ran Help! and Yellow Submarine, which was awesome.

Craig said...

I also like the exciting tagline "Expected Changes in Wavelengths will not Obsolete Zenith Television."

That's nearly as good as "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" or "Good to the last drop."

I've never heard "obsolete" used as a verb, either.

Phil Are Go! said...

Yep nothing but good times on UHF. Back then, my understanding of the "normal" channels, like 2,5, and 7 was "news and soap operas".

The importance of the letters "UHF" was imprinted on my kid brain because the aforementioned TV set was old enough that the dial had the channel numbers 2 through 9 on it in little silver numbers, and then just "UHF", which had to be fine-tuned with another dial. Thus, I learned that all good things lived in the UHF zone.

Thanks for commenting, Craig!

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