So Ilkley has entered the digital age. Last week, the analogue television signal to our little town was turned off and now if you want to watch you have to do so through Sky, cable or a set top box. Apparently.
I know this because of the irritating advert campaign that has been running for the last year. However, I have no meaningful understanding of what this actually means. I don’t suppose I need to know except that the way the four ‘real’ channels and the Sky stuff is now distributed around my house is different and what I can watch where depends on the wiring and the age of the set. Apparently.
Now I don’t mind change and I try to embrace technology but I have to confess that I struggle with modern television. I’m not one of those who says that everything that comes from Sky and cable is rubbish. If you are discerning and pick carefully, there are some really good programmes and some of the repeats have a kind of comfort factor, like an old sweater or a fire on a chilly night.
My gripes with modern TV lie in the sheer embarrassment of choice. When I was a child there were three and latterly four channels and video recorders could be found in only the very smartest of houses. This meant that everyone watched the same programmes at the same time. We would wait all week for an episode of Starsky and Hutch and then spend the next day discussing it with our mates and quoting chunks of dialogue at each other. There was a kind of sociability about our viewing. Just look at the viewing figures, numbers that producers today can only dream of.
Now, the chances of you and your friend having either watched the same programme or watched it at the same time are very slim indeed. Discussion is stymied because someone in the room will have recorded it and not managed to catch up yet. Others are weeks behind because the series link button allows you the luxury of recording something without even realising that it’s on.
Family viewing is another casualty. Whilst there were moments when I wished I wasn’t watching with my mum and dad, generally when the TV was on it was family affair so we would be found in the same room doing the same thing.
I know I could insist on selecting and watching programmes with my children but our viewing habits haven’t grown up like that and they watch things that hold no interest for me. So they sit in one room with America’s Next Top Model and we sit in the other with Spooks.
I know that modern TV is convenient, that I can watch what I want on demand and pause it if the phone rings but I think I preferred it when you either watched or you missed it. So as we enter this new, exciting and somewhat mysterious digital age, I can’t help but remember the good old television of my youth with more than a little wistfulness.