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An 84-Inch TV Review … From 1975

In a recent effort to get rid of clutter, files and whatever around our home — and when you live someplace for 30 years there is plenty of stuff you didn’t remember you had or don’t need now — I found a real period piece.

It is a copy of New York magazine from Aug. 4, 1975. I used to save newspapers and magazines when famous world or sports events occurred.

But aside from the date being my birthday, the only other “newsy” thing I could think of why I saved this was that there was a feature by Richard Reeves entitled, “How Democracy Failed In New York.” (Remember it was the “Drop Dead New York” almost-bankruptcy 1970s.)

It couldn’t be the two old celebrities on the cover — Betty Grable and Caesar Romero — in glorious black and white no less. But maybe it was about the cover story they were trying to illustrate. The headline was, “Are You Ready for the 84-Inch Home TV Screen? (You May Never Go to the Movies Again),” written by Andrew Tobias, journalist, author and, according to Wikipedia, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee since 1999.

I wish I could link to the original story but it was so long ago the story isn’t on the New York site.

It was so long ago that it was before I ever heard of the term “consumer electronics.”

It was so long ago that I was still an undergraduate journalism student at City College of New York with a minimal number of bylines in our student paper as a movie and music reviewer.

It was so long ago that this was before cable TV, or satellite TV for that matter, in New York City or most areas of the country. It was an era of typewriters, film cameras, tube TVs, home phones you leased from the phone company … need I go on?

Tobias’ report is classic in that he describes his experience with big-screen TV; the cable companies business “Pay-TV” and what “Home Box Office” is; and the broadcast networks, advertisers, movie theaters, movie companies and (Joe Clayton should love this) “video discs” from RCA or MCA.

Here is Tobias’ story from 1975 with three choice paragraphs:

“Soon I will float a small bond purchase to finance the purchase of one of the $3,695 four-by-six-foot VideoBeam color television sets that are already on the market. (Hugh Hefner has two of them.) And with the money I charge friends to come over and watch ‘The Edge of Night’ on my 84-inch screen (“measured diagonally”), I will buy one of the video-disc players that RCA and MCA are expected to bring to market for around $500 a copy next year. (Or perhaps I will buy them both, since the two systems are incompatible: the discs that fit one won’t work with the other.) Then, instead of going down to Sam Goody’s to buy just the sound track of 2001, I will be able to buy, but not [for] much more money, a “record” that plays the actual movie on my own TV screen. Or discs of thousands of other movies and oddments that will be available from $2 to $10 a disc.

“Add to this a $1,640 Sony video-tape recorder, so that I can tape ‘Perry Mason’ reruns, and I will have a first-class ‘entertainment center.’

“I will not be alone. Except for the wall-like TV, which will be a few years in coming down to a price which normal folks will want to buy it, the entertainment center will be within reach of millions of affluent American families. Limited to its bad essentials- the cable hook-up and the Home Box Office subscription, at a combined cost of $216 a year in New York, and less elsewhere — it will be within reach of practically everyone.”

Well … let the comments from CE industry neophytes and veterans, and everyone in between, begin!

Steve Smith is editor at large of TWICE and its longtime editor in chief.