Whatever happened to …

… television antennas?

Growing up, it was how we got television signals. Typically, we got Channel 8 from Wingham, Channel 10 from London, and Channel 13 from Kitchener. It’s not as rich as it sounds – Wingham and London were CBC affiliates and had much of the same programming.

At least, there were options to get Hockey Night in Canada.

When I was really young, we had to go outside and manually turn the antenna to pick up the signal. It was a two person job; one to do the turning and the other to be in the house and wave through the window when the television picked up the signal coming in.

No channel surfing without a lot of effort and collaboration here.

Eventually, we got a rotor that sat on top of the television and you could turn it to pick up the different stations without going outside.

On a cloudy day, we could sometimes pick up American television from Bay City/Saginaw. That changed everything – provided it was cloudy. There was also this mysterious station called Global from Paris that occasionally was available on really, really cloudy days.

At university, I rented various apartments and the television just was connected to the wall and picked up something called cable television. It was amazing; so many channels and you could stay inside and just press a button to pick up channels. There were no antennas on houses. I’ve seen the future.

A number of years ago, we bought a digital television and the vendor “threw in” a digital antenna. While the plan was to watch satellite television, this opened a whole new world. There was more than Channel 9 from Windsor and Channels 2, 4, 7, and 62 from Detroit! There are channels like 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc. A lot of them are shopping channels but there’s one that shows a big favourite “I Love Lucy” from the days of black and white television.

It’s Saturday morning as I type this and Jaimie and I just got back from our morning walk to the corner and back. Don’t laugh; according to my watch, it’s 3.5km. We saw three of our neighbour houses with antennas on the roof.

For a Sunday, put down that remote and share your thoughts in the comments.

  • did you live in a house that had an outside antenna?
  • if you did, did you have to go outside and adjust when you wanted to change the channel?
  • did you get more channels depending on the weather?
  • how do you watch television these days – over the air, satellite, cable, internet television, ?
  • how many channels do you have at your disposal?
  • do you have a digital antenna for your television?
  • do you purchase premium services like Crave, etc.?
  • language freeks – antennas or antennae?
  • does your world seem like a Bruce Springsteen song at times?

We’re getting into Christmas television specials season so please give us some advice about what you’re watching and how.

This is a regular Sunday feature around here. You can check them all out here.

Whatever happened to …

… that special toy?

You can’t go to stores anywhere these days without recognizing that Chrismas in on the way.

I’ll admit that I do get a kick from going through the children’s toy area of the store and just look around. So much plastic! Such high prices! When I hear reports that there are fewer sales than normal, it doesn’t surprise me.

If you could just somehow flash forward to Boxing Day, buy something, and then flash back to today, think of the money that you’d save.

It’s also interesting when I think of our local big box store how they’ve put the electronics right next to the toy aisles.

I have one very special toy that I remember from my youth.

It was a metal Fina gas truck. You know the ones that you often see at gas stations having their underground tanks filled? This was one of them. I can’t remember ever asking Santa for it but it arrived and it was something special.

I remember setting up little villages in the living room with a couple of gas stations. I’d be down on my hands and knees moving my truck from station to station. In the sandbox in the summer time, it was there too – playing gas driver for some reason. Just being a kid, I guess.

I also had to urge to point out to Dad whenever I saw a Fina gas station and had an urge to fill up at Fina stations whenver I could. Beyond the sign, Fina gas stations just stood out.

It hung on down in the basement and then one day it was gone. I don’t remember its departure; I can only guess that it was a victim of a cleaning while I wasn’t there.

These days, one of my wife’s favourite activities is to visit a “Giving Tree” at a store in town. From the branches of a Chrismas tree, you can select one or more cards that will have a description like “9 year old girl”, she goes shopping and returns it unopened where the staff wraps them and finds them a good home. We both hope that it goes to a good home and is appreciated like I appreciated my Fina truck.

For a Sunday morning, let’s talk toys. Maybe this will even be inspiration for those of us who still have shopping to do.

  • do you have a favourite childhood toy memory?
  • do you still have it or did it somehow go away?
  • if it went away, how?
  • did you have a friend or neighbour that had a toy that you absolutely wanted but never got?
  • do you enjoy buying toys for kids?
  • what was unique to the design of a Fina station? Do you know of one that’s still around?
  • is there something special about seeing a child open a gift?
  • do you contribute to a cause at Christmas time?
  • is there something special about giving a gift that you never see opened?
  • why are electronics located right next to the toy section?
  • do your own kids (or do you) hang on to that special toy long after it’s not age appropriate?

Please take a moment to share your stories. We all had toys so we all have stories to share.

This is a regular Sunday morning post around here. You can check out all the past issues here.

Whatever happened to …

… mousepads?

Looking down at my workspace, I see this.

The glare from the overhead lights actually make it look a little nicer than it is. But, you can see that much of the finish on this desk has been worn off from me moving my mouse back and forth and around and whatever I do with a mouse.

Years ago, that wouldn’t have happened.

We all had mousepads and the mouse was put on top of the pad instead of directly on the table. Of course, mouses were different back then too. They had hard balls inside them that actually rolled as you moved it. They’ve been replaced with LED technology to give a better response.

Of course, even further back, there was no such thing as a mouse since everything was keyboard driven. Or even further and we were programming with cards but here I am dating myself.

As I type this, I reflect on many of the mousepads that I’ve had over the years. Probably the best functional ones were little soft foamy ones. But, I can recall one from the Post-it company that was just a piece of plastic with small grooves to grab the ball. I tried a drafting mouse once and it was a clear plastic pad with a grid of wires in it that caught the attention of the mouse.

I had to smile when I think of the first bulk purchase that I made for the classrooms. It was something like 1500-2000 PCs and I worked on our fulfiller to provide mousepads for each of them. It seemed like I was breaking their bank but I eventually got them thrown in.

“You can give us ones that are branded and every student will see your company name when they sit down at the computer.”

Of course, kids did other things to them. These were the cheap spongey ones and you could stick a pencil or pen in them as a holder. There were also intriguing somehow to use as a drawing space. Evenually, the cover would peel off or chunks would come from the mousepad making them unusable. For a while, I added a line to the budget for mousepads.

There was a time when going to a technology conference meant that you could come home with a new supply of mousepads. They were often conference gifts and you could pick up a few by touring the exhibit hall.

Eventually, I gave up on a mousepad as I seemed to roll the mouse off the side and had to pick it up and move it back to the mousepad which often meant seeing the cursor jump around on the screen.

I just took a look in the cupboard and drawers and I can report that I don’t seem to have one around here anymore. It’s a sad day.

I’ll just continue to ruin the top of this desk.

Your thoughts for a Sunday.

  • Do you still use a mousepad?
  • Actually, do you still even use a mouse or have you moved to a Trackpad or something else?
  • What’s the plural of a computer mouse? Mouses or Mice?
  • Is there a practical solution for using mousepads with students and keeping them looking and functioning well?
  • Can you think of a better technology advertising than a branded mousepad?
  • When was the last time that you saw a mousepad at a conference? or for sale? The Source has a bunch and I’ve never noticed them in our local store. Of course, I can’t remember the last time I went specifically looking for one.
  • How embarrassing! As I finished off this post, I realize that I had written about this before. Oh well, maybe you missed the other one. From that post, you can see that I’ve upgraded both my keyboard and mouse. And, you can read Aviva and Sheila’s comments from three years ago on this topic.

I look forward to your thoughts. Please enter them in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning post around here. You can check out the past posts at this link.

Whatever happened to …

… Beanie Babies?

Don’t hate me. I have an ongoing Google Keep document with ideas for “Whatever happened to” posts but I had success with Leo in the Brave browser this week so I thought I’d ask it a question.

what would be a good topic for a “whatever happened to” blog post?

And Leo’s response…

A good topic for a “whatever happened to” blog post could be “Whatever happened to Beanie Babies?” They were once a popular collectible toy, but their popularity declined over time. It could be interesting to explore what happened to the brand and how it has evolved. What do you think? 🤔

So, here we are! This wasn’t in my collection but it got my interest.

As I always do, I did my indepth research which involves thinking about it on my morning bike ride and asking my wife for details when I got home.

Apparently, they were a big thing with our girls and they each had a nice collection. We’re not sure what happened to them. Apparently, outstanding husband that I am, I gave my wife a daschund Beenie Baby which looked like our pup Beauregard.

And, she still has it hidden away in a dresser drawer. I’m not sure if it’s to keep it from the grandkids or from Jaimie who might be jealous that he’s not the first dog we’ve ever had.

Here’s what Artificial Intelligence thinks Beanie Babies look like.

They were official collectables and came specially marked for that purpose.

At one of those vendor displays that you often see, we ran across a lady who made Beenie Babies and had a table full of them. Her message was that she was able to make and sell them at a fraction of the cost of the “real” ones. Did you catch the spelling?

So, for a Sunday morning, your thoughts?

  • did you or a family member own a Beanie Baby or two or many?
  • do you still have them?
  • do you remember what they were?
  • who was the manufacturer of Beanie Babies?
  • what was attached to a Beanie Baby to let potential buyers know that it was, in fact, an original?
  • what Beanie Babies were of high value and highly sought after?
  • can you still buy new Beanie Babies these days?
  • have you ever done the unthinkable and operated on a Beanie Baby to see just what the beans look like?

Thanks, Leo, for the suggestion. That brought back memories here and I wonder what else my wife has hidden away in the house.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning post around here. You can read them all here.

Whatever happened to …

… studded winter tires?

I was actually going to talk about snow tire commercials as they used to be everywhere this time of year but I haven’t seen a single one. However, the local tire place had a radio commercial so I had to refine into something better for this Sunday.

Growing up in the snow belt, it really was a thing. Dad would get them put on for the winter to get through the piles and piles of snow that we would get. Back then, everything was rear drive so any little bit helped. There did come a time when they got banned and a good snow tire became necessary. Even that has evolved.

At the time, I had a pickup truck which made things even more difficult for getting traction. I ended up putting bags of chicken grit in the back for the extra weight. They did weigh things down and were also awesome for providing traction if I ever needed.

If you’re the type of person that buys salt for your driveway, you might want to consider chicken grit. It doesn’t melt and doesn’t leave marks.

Driving without studded tires was noticeably different. I understand the logic of them causing wear and tear on the roads and the reason to ban them. It would only take one commuting session to rip up the road in front of our place.

Snow really isn’t a problem if you are intelligent about it. Here’s a favourite picture of mine with friend Kerry Withrow helping dig out my car after a big snowfall at a Western RCAC Conference in London with our keynote speaker, David Pogue. We had to get him back to the airport!

A few years ago, we had an #ECOOCamp in Owen Sound and Highway 4 was closed in spots but if you knew the backroads and drove carefully, you could get home without problems other than white knuckles. No studded or snow tires needed here.

I can only remember one serious issue – as a teenager a friend of mine and I tried to turn around in a farmer’s front yard except the area we chose was a pond and the ice didn’t hold us. Fortunately, the farmer had a tractor and a chain and we were out in no time.

Studded or snow tires wouldn’t have saved the day there.

These days, we’ve invested in good all-weather tires and we’re good to go. We don’t get nearly the snow that we did in Huron and Middlesex counties. I know that others swap out to actual snow tires for the winter. Our local tire company will store your tires somewhere should you decide to make the switch.

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts?

  • can you remember driving with studded tires?
  • it is still legal in Ontario to drive with studded tires at a particular time of year? Do you know where and when?
  • if you’re from a location other than Ontario, are studded tires legal in your location?
  • where do you keep them when you’re not using them?
  • what’s the difference between all-season and all-weather tires?
  • do you switch to snow tires for the winter? Where do you store them when not using them?
  • there is an alternative to studded tires and you can buy them at Canadian Tire. What am I talking about?
  • snow tires are really making a recovery when all-* tires were marketed as the ultimate solution. Do they make that much difference or is this just another marketing scheme?
  • what about modern car design make all-* tires so much more effective?
  • am I jinxing us by talking snow tires in November?

Jinxed or not, I’d still like to hear your thoughts about studded tires and driving in the winter. Please share your wisdom in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning feature around here. All the back posts are available here. I’m always looking for ideas for this post. Please reach out if you have one.

Whatever happened to …

… Blockbuster?

I got thinking about this when I read the news today that BestBuy would stop selling Blu-rays and DVD media in 2024. The story is from CNBC but I suspect that it applies to us here in Canada.

Best Buy will stop selling Blu-rays, DVDs in 2024: ‘The way we watch movies and TV shows is much different today’ https://t.co/HirHG83Upe— CNBC (@CNBC) October 13, 2023

In the beginning, there were television stations from Wingham (Channel 8), London (Channel 10) and Kitchener (Channel 13) that we could totally rely on for good strong over the air signals. We watched what the programmers at the stations told us what we should. It did spawn the quote “There’s nothing on”.

Things sure have changed. Fast Forward …

Ah, but before BestBuy, there was Blockbuster. You could go in there and rent, not buy, a VCR tape or a game for your home system. It became a victim of technology and declared bankruptcy back in 2010.

Before that, it wasn’t uncommon to go to Blockbuster and rent a movie on VCR for the weekend or for a kid’s birthday party sleepover. The selection was overwhelming and I found it handy to know the name of the video I was going to rent before going in.

The yellow and blue logo sure stood out when you drove by and there were many, many stores. The company did try to keep up with the times and moved on from renting VCR tapes to other media.

It also started spinoffs because the ability to have a VCR on demand, pause for whatever reason, replay scenes, alternate endings, etc. that even the corner convenience stores offered them for rent.

We do live in a different world for entertainment these days. Let’s talk about it.

  • were you a frequent visitor to Blockbuster for your video or gaming entertainment?
  • if you were kind, what did you do?
  • did it bother you that the company could track what movies you rented?
  • sometimes, you just have to have your own copy – do you have purchased media from days gone by?
  • will BestBuy stopping selling media affect you or your family?
  • have you ever given a DVD or other media as a gift?
  • now, you can access movies and shows online with a television to access the services. Do you pay for a service? Which one(s)?
  • do you access free video on demand services like Plex on your television?
  • do you even use a television or do you watch shows on your computing or portable device?
  • now, you can record television using a PVR. Do you have a stockpile of things that you intend to watch? I just checked ours and I have 31 things to watch – movies, Formula 1, and a couple of television shows that we love – Law and Order SVU, Modern Family
  • do you have any concerns about the modern alternatives tracking your viewing habits? Or, do you appreciate suggestions for what to watch next?

Things indeed have changed but Bruce Springsteen notes that some things remain the same.


Blockbuster helped change that.

As I ask every Sunday, how about sharing your thoughts about this in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning feature around here. You can read all the previous posts here.

Whatever happened to …

… dressing up to go downtown?

Today’s topic is courtesy of Sheila Stewart who also contributed this post on her family blog.

Would you have old family photo albums with pictures to compete? As Sheila and I tend to do, she shared a song. This one is a classic.

If you’re old enough to remember this song, you’ll be old enough to remember the series “I Love Lucy” from the 1950s. As luck would have it for this post, there was a comment from Ethel Mertz on a show today.

Lucy, I have never ridden on a subway in my blue jeans, and I’m not gonna start now.

So, everyone draws the line. I’ll admit that I’ve never dressed up to the extent of the pictures in Sheila’s post. But her post and her prompting got me thinking about what I wear in various situations.

Most were things I learned as a kid, that I still mostly do today.

  • I may wear lounging shorts or sweatpants around the house but definitely will put on shorts or pants if I’m going “downtown”
  • In the classroom, I started wearing sports jacket, shirt and tie, and dress pants but morphed to jacket, shirt and tie, and Dockers. Dry cleaning bills were a killer
  • While I usually do wear a baseball cap, I won’t wear it inside and I wear it with the visor pointing forward
  • If we are going “downtown”, I’ll dress what I consider appropriate – nicer clothes and shoes if we’re going to a restaurant – since our downtown is also a fabulous park, I’ll go much more casual for a dog walk – anything that doesn’t attract fur
  • When going out for a date, I will always wear something a little fancier
  • I don’t own a suit – I rented a Tuxedo for my wedding and rented a suit for my daughter’s wedding – so it would cost me money to dress like those in Sheila’s pictures
  • Growing up, blue jeans were basically play clothes but these days they are good to go for almost any scenario of going out

Basically, in my world to answer Sheila’s question, I don’t dress up to go “downtown” but I will change from my really grubby clothes to something that’s appropriate.

Again with the music, this song came up on my MP3 player as I was out for a bike ride this afternoon and, Sheila, I think it says it all. We’re a different generation and don’t wear pantyhose with blue jeans. (Actually, I’ve never worn them with anything)

Things definitely have changed over the years and there’s a big thing for my wife that she screams at when we’re out and see it. “You don’t wear socks and sandals!” Second on her list are people that wear sleep pants out in public.

But, as he cues another song, it’s not all bad. Terri Clark assures us that old grey sweatpants turn women on. How could she lie about something like that?

For a Sunday, how about sharing thoughts with Sheila and me?

  • Do you dress up when you go “downtown”? Quotes because everyone’s concept of downtown may be different
  • Will you wear a hat indoors? Will you wear it backwards?
  • Will you change clothes in the middle of the day because you’re going out and you wouldn’t be caught wearing your casual clothes in public?
  • Do you own a suit? What do you wear to weddings? What do you wear to work?
  • Why don’t “those pantyhose go well with blue jeans”?
  • Do you wear socks and sandals?
  • Do you wear sleep pants out in public?
  • Do you own an old grey pair of sweatpants? (I do and I love them)

Feel free to answer any/all of these questions? And, also feel free to add any other of your thoughts about dressing up to go downtown. That’s what the comment section is for.

This is a regular Sunday morning feature around here. You can check them all out here. Feel free to reach out like Sheila did if you have an idea for a future post.

Whatever happened to …

… the joy of buying a new car?

It’s been over a month but it seems like forever that we’ve been looking for a new car for my daughter. It sure isn’t like the old days.

In the old days, we had one dealership in town and another independent that sold used cars. Since it was a small town, they knew us and importantly our budget and directed us accordingly. It sure hasn’t been that way this time around – we’ve been to many different locations across three counties and are still looking.

It’s a big decision; next to buying a house, it’s probably the biggest thing that you’ll purchase.

The language has changed. What used to be “used” are now know as “pre-owned”. And, in this day and age, the price of cars have gone through the roof just like anything else. A selection of used, er, pre-owned is pretty slim anywhere we went. I suspect that people are making their vehicles last a lot longer.

Even the experience is different. At some places, it’s difficult to even get to talk to a salesman. On a recent outing, we had a gentleman come out while my daughter was going over a car and I was doing something else. He came to me and asked if he could help me.

“No, but you could help her.”

We did find a vehicle that looked decent enough and the three of us went for a test drive. He was pointing out the features and even noted a USB port in the back seat.

“You could plug your makeup kit in here.”

I gasped and she gave me the look “Dad, don’t embarrass me.” I couldn’t keep quiet though and said “I don’t think you should have said that.” Needless to say, we won’t be back and my daughter has promised to send a note to the dealership.

We got a person to talk to that time but there were other places where we walked the entire lot and talked to nobody. We ran into some places that closed at 5 and weren’t open on the weekends. When are working people supposed to go vehicle shopping? We had a couple of cars that even had to be jump started to get going.

When you live in one town and work in another, having reliable transportation is not negotiable. I even got an observation from my wife “see, this is why we still need to have two cars.”

I will confess to still having a mindset from my youth. 100 000 is a lot of mileage but it doesn’t mean the same in a country that has the odometer measuring kilometres. There are web resources that do indicate that modern vehicles can still be reliable even at odometer readings of over 200 000 km.

Digital has changed the entire experience. CarFax has been a great research tool to see how vehicles have been maintained. It’s so easy to sit at the computer and browse dealer websites looking for vehicles. The whole family is helping the cause and sharing links like crazy. One family member writes them down on paper so we all help out where we can. Many of the sites claim to have live pricing and monitor what is being sold and for how much in other places and supposedly adjust themselves. You can even buy a car online, it gets delivered on a trailer to your front door, and away you go.

Her repair person is a fan of Japanese branded vehicles and I am now more aware of Nissans, Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas, etc. than I ever thought that I would be.

I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Nissan Juke. But, I do now. It’s in the category of sub-compact SUV.

With all this, as of this writing, we’re still looking.

And there really is no joy other than spending quality time with family.

For a Sunday, your thoughts …

  • when was the last time you bought yourself a new vehicle?
  • was it used, er, pre-owned?
  • do you have a brand loyalty when it comes to vehicles?
  • is there a magic odometer reading that you would never consider in a vehicle purchase if it was over that?
  • have you ever had challenges with a car dealer?
  • do you trade your vehicle in regularly? are you planning to make it last longer in this economy?

Things used to be so much simpler. And, there was a real sense of joy and accomplishment once you sealed the deal.

I’d love to read your experiences and thoughts in the comments to this post.