When the Test Pattern Meant the End of the Day

It wasn’t that long ago when television stations “concluded” their programming and “left the air”.

Sometimes you would be up and awake for the announcer’s voice to tell reassure you that “programming would resume” at its regularly scheduled hour the next morning.  Sometimes you would fall asleep on the couch and wake up to the the test pattern.  Seeing it meant the day was over –or the day’s news– and you could go to bed knowing that the next day was the next day and a chance to start over.

Cable has ruined that.  The day never ends, and neither does the trouble of the day.  If you fall asleep with a cable news program going the horrors of the previous day are going to carry over into your sleep and into the next day.  And now all it takes is a phone on the pillow next to you to do this.  A smartphone has no test pattern.

In Chicago there were basically three network stations and one independent, and they all had their distinctive patterns, as you can see.  My favorite was Chanel 5’s NBC Peacock, even when it was in black and white.

The world might be happier if all you could get were test patterns after 11:00 pm or midnight; then yesterday’s news could stay yesterday’s news.

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