Because I was born in 1951, I grew up without the benefit of 1,000 cable channels available whenever I wanted them. This was during the 1950s and 1960s when we lived in the city of Pittsburgh, PA.
Instead we had to make due with four -- that is four -- VHF television stations that we could receive on a black and white TV (actually it wasn't strictly BLACK and WHITE; there were various shades of gray). There was one TV station for each network: CBS, ABC, and NBC, plus one 'Educational' (PBS) station. Later on, we got two independent UHF stations.
This was also the era when the 'blackout rule' was largely in effect for sports broadcasts, and if you didn't go to the stadium for a home game, you made due with radio, AM radio that is.
Now there were two cities near Pittsburgh that had their own TV stations: Steubenville, and Altoona (or maybe Johnstown; I forget). And, these TV stations would often carry Pittsburgh home games when the Pittsburgh TV stations couldn't because the game wasn't sold out.
Since my father wanted to see the games (usually football) on TV instead of listening to the radio, he went through some serious efforts to be able to receive them from Steubenville or Altoona. When I was growing up, he experimented with different and bigger TV antennas and antenna rotors on the roof of our house. One time, he even tried tuning and phasing the 300 ohm downlead from the antenna.
In addition, he also did 90% of the TV maintenance himself. Back in those days, you could take the back off of a TV, plug in a 'cheater cord' and try to repair the TV yourself. In fact, there were books telling you how to repair a TV, and my father had several. Whenever the picture got 'weak' or 'funny', out would come the books; off went the back, and out came the egg carton with extra TV tubes (you kept the extra tubes in an egg carton, like the book told you to).
My father then would start to tap and change tubes until the problem went away. A few times, he took down a mirror and propped it up on a chair in front of the TV so that he could see what the effect was of an adjustment he was making. During those olden days, you fixed simple things yourself. As I got older, I learned how TVs worked and repaired them myself. I still remember converging color sets using the mirror on the chair trick.
Anyhow, one day when I was in high school (~1967), we got another 'new', bigger antenna and went to put it up on our roof. Since we had a finished attic, we used a dormer window to go onto the roof. While we were hoisting the antenna up the side of the house, our dog followed us out the dormer window and onto the roof.
Now the dog, Kingie, was a medium sized white terrier/Dalmatian mix from an 'unauthorized' neighborhood tryst, and he was having a grand time seeing the neighborhood from a new and unique perspective. During all this time, my mother had gone to the store for a few groceries. (which is why we decided it was the ideal time to install an antenna on the roof). As she was walking home, Kingie saw her on the sidewalk from the peak of the roof of our three story house and started barking as loud as he could.
Needless to say, both my father and myself caught HECK. "Why did you let the dog go out on the roof, he could have fallen off." Nothing was mentioned about either of us falling however!!
Even though I didn't get my ham license until years later, I think those days were the start of my ham radio career. Somewhere along the way, I also became an electrical engineer.
Joe Birsa, N3TTE
Note: Joe has been an RF Cafe visitor for many years and has written often. He is an electrical engineer and a member of the Skyview Radio Society in New Kensington, PA. Joe volunteers as an instructor on 'Elmer Night' teaching Circuit Theory, Electronics and Math support for license exam questions. Along with rag chewing, Joe also enjoys model railroading and in fact, according to him, rail fans who are Hams often use the medium to exchange information about where to get good pictures of 'real' trains. 'TV DXing' was the subject of a story in the July 1958 edition of Radio-Electronics. - Kirt B.
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- The Singing Telephone Switch
Posted July 7, 2014p>