FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ode to a TV Antenna

In a post several weeks ago on vanishing Americana, I suggested one of those vanishing items was the television antenna -- not satellite dishes, but the wiry, spindly contraptions that once graced the rooftops of modern homes throughout the land. Today, I saw something that made me ponder how a once-cutting-edge technology is literally destined for the junkheap.

A number of homeowners in my neighborhood are having their roofs replaced this season. One of those lives a few doors down from me. This morning, I noticed in his pile of things to be hauled off to the trash his old TV antenna, rusted yet neatly collapsed. The new roof is antenna-free.

The houses in my neighborhood were all built in the early 1980s, when cable TV was just starting to become mainstream. As a result, relatively few houses ever had antennas to receive broadcast TV. My neighbor's house was one of the last... and now, his antenna is no more.

When I was growing up in the early '70s, a friend once asked me why my house didn't have a TV antenna on the roof. Indeed, the house stood out in the neighborhood for that very reason. The answer was that my father had (wisely) installed our antenna in the attic, where it was effective yet not exposed to the elements. Who could have known that, two decades later, the appearance of our house would be the rule rather than the exception?

Why wax sentimental over an ugly piece of metal? The disappearance of those rooftop mishmashes of tubes and wires is just one more manifestation of change. And while this blog's purpose is to celebrate change, it's enlightening to at least be aware of what came before.