Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Case of the Mysterious Satellite Signal

I have basic cable like many Americans because I cannot afford the many levels of premium packages, because I need cable for the high-speed internet connection, and because the program choices on cable seem rather stupid, condescending and patronizing.

Coltons Point is one of the last outposts of wilderness in the Eastern USA so cable was a recent technological advance here. We still have no DSL on phone lines. Fact is we have no fiber optic wiring at all as the phone system is based on ancient boxes set on the ground which short out every flood or hurricane.

No cell phone towers in Coltons Point either. You have to drive 12 miles to get to the nearest cell phone reception zone meaning we remain free of radiation bombarding our brains. Here we have no technological excuse for being stupid. Yet we are only 60 miles from our nation's capitol, as in Washington, D.C. for those not historically correct.

Basic cable now means you get no cable channels, just the local network, public access and PBS stations. Not even CNN, Fox News or the Weather Channel are on basic cable. I think Congress, who regulates the telecommunications industry and sets the license requirements for broadcasters, should tell them to quit lying. There is no cable in basic cable. It is just a convenient way to charge people for the free channels in their area.

Coltons Point is also a magical place where very strange things can happen. Ever since the shipload of English arrived back in the year 1634 at Clements Island just off Coltons Point there have been strange things happening. For those of you short on history that was before New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Chicago and Los Angeles even existed.

The latest strange miracle is the mysterious case of the wayward satellite signal. If you want to pay for television and be a player in the 500 channel digital broadcast game you must have a digital television and you must have access to the 500 channels through either digital cable service or satellite television. To play you have to get a cable or satellite dish installed and be willing to pay between $35 and $200 a month for no one knows how much they are really being charged.

Now technology 101 teaches you need a cable for cable television and a satellite dish for satellite television. Digital television sets have about a thousand stations available on the super remote controls. Older sets may have 125 channels available. Even older sets have 99 channels as they could not figure out how to get three digits of channels. I have an even older set.

A couple of weeks ago I was scanning my six basic channels when a strange message appeared on the screen saying my satellite signal had failed and I needed to readjust the satellite dish. I had satellite television before and the damn dish needed to be readjusted every time the wind blew or the rain was too hard so I knew what the message meant. I just didn't have a satellite dish to adjust on my cable TV.

Still it made me curious so I started checking to see how many blank channels had the same message. Remember, my basic cable left 93 blank channels out of 99 possible. When I got past the basic channels to my complete astonishment every single cable channel except the pay channels for movies, sports or porn I guess appeared on my screen.

I've heard of wires being crossed before but never have I heard of an old television set with basic cable and no satellite suddenly start receiving satellite signals. Besides, this is a case of wires and wireless being crossed which makes for an interesting physics challenge.

So Obama goes to Europe and I get satellite television on my cable tv. This must be some kind of sign of enlightenment. Maybe we should get him elected. Even the rednecks that don't like him might like the free World Wrestling Mania, the Saturday Night Slam Down or whatever it is they watch.

I don't see how they can charge me for satellite tv when I don't have a satellite dish. This momentary miracle has given me a chance to go back and see if television programming has advanced since I last had cable or satellite service.

Fat chance. If anything the standards are far less. The shows are stupid or a copy of something that worked once upon a time. Tell Congress things are so bad we now need a warning to appear on every television show; "The Surgeon General has determined that watching digital television not only causes tumors but also destroys brain cells causing intellectual constipation. If you have not already destroyed all your brain cells you should turn off your television and start taking all those prescription drugs.

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