The Pterodactyl in the Room

October 4, 2013 - 9:16pm -- swingbug

It was late by the time we all trickled into the house this evening. With a take-and-bake pizza sitting in the oven and a text from my Dad about the start of the first A's playoff game, I hunted out the remote in search of the proper station.

"I'm not sure we'll get it here," Shawn calls from the kitchen. "Not on any TV station we get anyway."

He was right. Apparently the Oakland Athletics don't rate out here in the greater Sac-of-Tomatoes area.

Meanwhile, my six-year-old is listening to this exchange. "What's a TV station?"

Right. Kids do this to you. Old tech we take for granted is a brand new curiosity for them, as if we're talking about wooly mammoths or pterodactyls or politicians who actually show up to work and do their fracking jobs.

"Um, well, do you know what a radio station is?"


"Right. Okay..." I'm digging around for a simile other than two cups with a string attached. To be clear, it's not that my child is unfamiliar with visual media of the motion picture variety. We do have a flat rectangle in the house that fits the description of a television screen, in function if not in form. And with verbal parental consent he's free to watch any of the media on our server that we've loaded up for general family consumption. We also have a Netflix account by which various flavors of Star Trek can be acquired. If the kiddo wants to know what a flying squirrel looks like, we can hit YouTube and find gliding rodents. But television as a data source is pretty much only accessed by this household when the niners have a game on, or every other year for the Olympics.

"Well, you know how you can use the internet to access all different kinds of websites? Like there are websites about the Legend of Zelda games and then there are websites about Disneyland?"

He's nodding now. We're on familiar ground.

"Okay, well, TV has stations that are kind of like that. Different stations broadcast-" (he's wrinkling his brow here) "- or serve different kinds of information."

I can see he's trying to hang with me here.

"And at our house we only get a few stations."


"Well, it's expensive for one thing?"

"Wait, you have to pay for it?"

I'm watching my child try to process why you'd want to pay for media over which you have no control. And we haven't even gotten into commercials yet.

You have to admit, he's got a point.

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