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Television, as you know, is a very chancy business in our mountains. Some folks get only Channel 4, some lucky few with a straight shot at Lookout Mountain get everything, but most of us get nothing at all unless we invest in a satellite dish. Most exasperating is getting a lousy picture with a huge mast and antenna while our next door neighbor gets a good picture on a 16-year-old Emerson with some foil wrapped around the rabbit ears.
We’ve had television sets at our place since the early seventies and we’ve been luckier than most. Still, when the Bronco’s play, it looks like there are four teams on the field because of the ghostly reflections from our mountains.
This past summer we put in a satellite dish, and it’s made a big difference in our lives. For one thing we can see the Broncos with crystal clarity, but we also get the news, weather and nearly 180 channels of stuff. So even if 90% of television is trash, that still leaves 18 channels of pretty useful and interesting things.
When we got the dish, I began looking around, and I was surprised by the number of dishes in our area; there are a couple in downtown Allenspark and many more that aren’t so obvious. Apparently our desire to get away is well tempered by our desire to stay in touch.
Prices for satellite systems keep coming down, and by 1993 more powerful satellites will be in orbit. Most now transmit at only five watts, so you have to have at least an eight foot dish for good reception. The new generation of satellites will broadcast at up to 16 watts, so a six or even four foot dish will do the job. And Colorado is right in the middle of the satellite “footprint,” so we get the highest power the satellite can deliver. Folks in California and Florida will still need fairly large dishes.
Of course, it’s a pretty big investment but over the life of the dish and receiver you pay less per year than for a basic cable hookup, and it’s much more reliable. That’s why you see a number of dishes in Estes Park.
They’re not without problems, of course. You have to keep the snow out of them, and Lillian Trevarton’s dish was hit by lightning a few years back, but they seem not to be bothered by wind; I haven’t heard of any that have been blown down.
Then there’s the aesthetic problem. It’s true that a dish is no thing of beauty, unless you’re into high-tech aesthetics. But it’s often possible to hide it pretty well. Perhaps the worst aspect of having a dish in your front yard is that you might as well hang a sign on your house that says “TV Addicts Live Here.” We don’t like to be thought of as TV addicts.
Still, I can remember when a telephone was considered a gadget we didn’t really need up here, and many of us thought long and hard before we put one in. I expect, by the turn of the century, satellite dishes will be in the same category.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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