The round television set

by James K. Sayre

It was probably in the spring or summer of 1949, a few months before we moved away from our Ridgewood, New Jersey house to our new home just south of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania. We visited a neighbor for our first experience of seeing a television set in operation. It had a small round gray screen, with some moving pictures of people. I have no recollection of what show was on; I was only six or barely seven years old and already had a lot of other things to interest me: birds and bugs and flowers and a brother and a sister and our parents.

Over a decade or so later, while I was either in high school, I learned that television scts were actually modified oscilloscopes. My father, the engineer and mechanic and a general tinkerer, had a small oscilloscope for his own use.

The shape of the picture in the television set quickly moved away from the initial round shape towards a more rectangular shape, to conform to the shape of the motion picture screen in movie theaters and the shapes of photographs, I suppose.

Fortunately, when viewed in retrospect, my parents did not buy a television set until 1952, when I was ten years old. There were only a few television channels back then; there was not really much to watch except some early comedies, which were quite good.

Even back then, the television commercials were loud and obnoxious, so my father invented a "blab-off" switch, which turned off the sound. He installed in just behind the couch, in as easily accessible location. Sometimes my parents would have to shout to us kids, "Turn it off;" I guess that we kids were more tolerant of commercials.




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