I still remember that day in the late 80s/early 90s. There was what appeared to be a repairman fixing our living room TV but our TV wasn't broken. Instead he leaves behind this wood finished box with bright red numbered lights on top of the TV.
From that day on our TV was permanently set on Channel 3 since everything went through "the box". There was now a world that expanded beyond CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and PBS. There was no more buying a new and better TV antenna or putting aluminum foil on the antenna to enhance it.
We now had over 50 channels!
And there was no Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Qwest, or Charter. This was your regular old county cable company. It was so complex that the cable guy had to give my parents instructions on how to use it. There were so many channels we had to print out the list of the channels because there was no way to ever memorize them all. I remember the best way to recognize these channels I've never heard of was by the logos they had for each station.
First I remember channel 57, the Disney Channel.
I think this was what I was the most excited about when we first had cable. At the time this was premium so it costs extra. Non stop Disney cartoons and movies from Good Morning, Mickey!, Welcome to Pooh Corner, and Kids Incorporated.
Then as I was scrolling up and down all the channels I discovered another channel that had non stop kids programming. That was Nickelodeon, channel 43.
I remember You Can't Do That On Television as an SNL for kids, and it was the type of clean programming your parents still would rather you not watch. There was The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Clarissa Explains It All, Hey Dude, and Salute Your Shorts.
Not long after that came the big three of Rugrats, Doug and the Ren and Stimpy Show.
These shows were very popular and as I type this I have theme songs to all three in my head. I didn't know one person who didn't watch these shows and I still remember how huge they were in terms of the merchandise they produced from these three shows. I must have spent so many hours on channel 43, I think every time I turned the cable box on it was already set there.
Since I watched Nickelodeon so much I would stay up late when it became Nick at Nite.
I felt that at 9pm I always felt disappointed since I didn't want to stop watching cartoons and children's programming. All the sudden I would be stuck with the Donna Reed Show for the rest of the night. That wasn't fair. And then they would throw in episodes of the old Dennis the Menace which I didn't like for some reason. I think this is why I hate black and white movies to this day. When they take away the color from our shows they take away more then they know, especially when you're a young kid with ADD like me. It's scary that now a days when you tune into Nite at Nite you see 90's TV shows that I grew up with like the shows that used to be on TGIF. It makes me feel really old.
There was also good old Comedy Central which was channel 99 (the highest number the box had since it just showed two digits even though most of the channels high up didn't exist)
This channel has come a long way but hasn't really changed much when you think about it. The Daily Show was on there but it had ESPN alumni Craig Kilborn instead. Shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Dr. Katz seemed to be on all day. Also was a show that I hated called Absolutely Fabulous that I would always change the channel when it came on. Today I think Comedy Central is a lot better as far as the programs it has on.
Then of course there was MTV, which stood for music Music Television, because back then the channel actually revolved around music and not bad programming. (Speaking of which when MTV got horrible there was also always VH1 to turn to since that still had music and now that has horrible programming as well) In any case I just remember turning on this channel and having a great music video on no matter what.
Great videos by Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Guns N' Roses, Metallica, you name it. And I loved the countdowns especially the Alternative Nation ones. But of course above all the main reason I stayed up to watch MTV was to watch Beavis and Butt-head. Let's face it they are one of the many icons of our generation... and nothing is wrong with that.
It's unbelievable how today we have close to 1,000 channels and we don't really appreciate it (until the bill comes) Part of me misses that original box. Thanks for reading!