Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column mug

Every generation has its remarkable moments, events and hardships.

I have some incredible photographs of my maternal grandparents that were taken in the 1920s and ’30s. I find it hard to imagine the two generations before me gathering around a radio for news and even their entertainment.

I never asked my grandparents or my parents what they thought about television when it came along. I know my grandfather liked television for one reason — the weather report.

Television had to be a luxury in a sense for those who grew up during the radio era. My family got our first television, black-and-white, of course, in the late 1950s. My older brother remembers that he never got to watch the Western he liked called “Maverick.” It was shown at the same time as “Perry Mason,” and Mom liked “Perry Mason.” Back in the day, if you missed your show, you were out of luck.

It was a big deal when my family got our first color television in the mid-1960s. At that time, I believe our household received three television channels, all from Duluth. After we had a rotor installed on our roof antenna, we could turn the direction of the antenna and, depending on the weather, could receive three or four more channels out of the Twin Cities.

These stations were ABC, CBS and NBC, and maybe one educational channel. I felt we had reached the pinnacle — six or seven channels. It was simple (antenna on the roof — it was what it was), and we got what we got. No decisions to be made.

The past few decades, everything has gone a little crazy regarding television viewing. Society decided we must have 200, 300 or more channels to watch, and we need to view this content on the other screens we now have like tablets, computers, watches and phones.

In some type of scheme, different networks, content and options have been split up. Now there are decisions to be made regarding how much viewing entertainment content we want.

Boomers have experienced a great deal over the years; from simple television programming that signed off at midnight playing “The Star Spangled Banner” or displaying a test pattern until programming resumed, maybe around 6 a.m.

We’ve witnessed the evolution of cable, dish, VCRs, DVDs, and now streaming and videos on demand. There are so many new terms and services out there like Roku, Amazon Fire Sticks, Sling, fuboTV, YouTube, Disney+, Netflix and Philo. There are more.

All of this seems overwhelming. I’ve stayed with cable because it has been easier, but the price keeps going up. So, I have decided to consider some of these streaming options. To do this, I will take the road most elders take regarding technology — I will ask my children.

Both my kids have completely cut the cable cord. My son and his wife live in Montana. They currently have four different streaming services. He told me signing up for streaming services is easy and you can do it online.

They watch these services through a Roku device, which is a small streaming box that you plug into your TV. With these choices, they have lost their local news and some sports. They have to head to a pizza joint to watch the Minnesota Vikings play.

My daughter, who lives in Rochester, subscribes to three streaming companies. She tells me binge-watching is what cool kids do. I know for absolute certainty that I’m no longer a cool kid. This works out for her family; although again, they lost local channels, and her husband no longer can watch his Packers games. (Who would want to?)

Both my son and daughter gave me solid advice. If you are interested in a change from cable, do your homework, and know what programming you want to maintain. My son told me it’s like buying a car — you need to kick the tires of these different streaming services. Most offer free trials.

They tell me there are no time commitments and it’s easy to change or add services. I need to find the middle ground. I want my local channels and require my Minnesota sports. Similarly, I always want the area newspaper.

With assistance from my son, we have signed up for the streaming services of Disney+ and Netflix. I will kick their tires for a bit and see what I think.

The whole activation of the Roku device took a few attempts. The website said it was super easy — for us, it was not, but we finally did figure it out. We now have many remotes — that’s a problem.

I did a belly flop into the stream, but I’m in.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com.

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