Boomer Television

TV Book
The Ultimate Television Book
Firemen, ed.

This TV retrospective was published in the late 1970s. It covers the early days to the mid 1970s. This would have been a decent choice for a library back in the 1970s. There is a timeline that ran through the bottom of the pages, articles on trends, and other TV events.

I was trying to remember many of these things as I was a teenager during the 70s. I think it was the late 1970s when I had actually heard of HBO. It was hard to wrap my head around paying for television. I mean really. We had 3 channels. That was plenty.

Cable TV came to my town in the mid 1970s which allowed us to pick up Channel 9 in Chicago. My dad finally relented to the necessity of cable when he decided he needed to watch the Chicago Cubs disappoint him on television rather than radio.

As a history retrospective for 2021, this book feels incomplete. It was written for the 1970s and the baby boomer generation. This book is over 40 years old and actually looks it. As a paperback, the pages are yellowed and I was surprised that it was still mostly intact. Remember, paperbacks are really not built for the long run.

If it still works in your library, I doubt anyone will kick up a fuss if you kept this on a shelf. It probably deserves a place in a specialty collection. Other than a few old timers or TV history nerds, its really past it’s prime. As I write this, this book was still in circulation at a small library. I have a hard time believing this book is worth keeping in a public library collection.


PS. I only got 2 answers correct on the trivia quiz. I did a bit better on the matching game.

TV book back cover

tv technology pay tv tv trivia 1 tv trivia page 2 betamax TV hearings


  1. I remember checking this book out in the early 1980s. Back then, it wasn’t horribly out of date, and the insight into the early history of TV was fascinating to me. And, of course, now it is both outdated and most likely not accurate.

    I am old enough to remember how exciting it was when we went from the giant antenna on the roof (with electric rotator and stickers on the dial of the rotator showing the best position to get each channel) to the world of cable! Over 40 channels! Movies! TBS! Public Access…

  2. I just love books on older TV, thanks to a childhood spent watching lots of Nick at Nite, so I’m one of the few people out there who’d actually check this out. But I’m sure if this gets put up for sale, it’ll get scooped up fast!

  3. I owned this book back when it was new and while it was interesting, it wasn’t very well formatted or edited as I recall. It was one of the first of it’s type but many better books in the subject have come out since. Time to weed this one!

  4. I vaguely remember reading it, but have the same recollection as B.Harris.

    I’d heard of HBO but nobody I knew had it in 1977. At the time, I so wanted my parents to get cable, which of course they did about 5 minutes after I left for college.

    I’m grateful I got a VHS machine that was smaller than the clunky Betamax pictured just a few years later. VHS lasted a lot longer than Beta.

    I grew up with 5 channels and the electric rotator, which was a vast improvement over “You’re the youngest, go adjust the rabbit ears” of my earlier years.

    This is definitely good book sale/online sale fodder.

  5. *blink blink*

    I didn’t know cable TV was around in the 1970s! I thought it was invented in the 1980s.

    1. Cable TV started in the late 1940s as “community antenna television”, in towns where it was hard to get TV signals with a roof antenna. Someone would build a big antenna near the town and run cables to anyone willing to pay for the service. Depending on where the town was, they could often get channels from multiple cities. And these systems often filled empty channels with community programming, public access channels, and primitive weather channels (a camera pointed at gauges, interspersed with text forecasts).

  6. We always had a rooftop antenna when I was little, so no adjusting needed. After cable came along, I resisted mightily, partly because the only provider (can you say monopoly?) was viewed as terrible. I finally gave in around 1984 or 85, so that my stepson could watch MTV, which at the time was all music videos. Yes, I did grow to appreciate what cable had to offer, too!

  7. The baby boomer generation was born after World War 2 and it’s interesting how television stars of the 70s were largely older than they were. My parents were born just slightly before the end of WW2, so they were older than your average boomer, but many of the biggest TV shows of the 70s starred people much older than they were – Bob Newhart, Bea Arthur, Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson and dozens of others were much older than my early-boomer parents. Even Mary Tyler Moore was nearly ten years older than my mom and dad, presumably the boomer target audience for her show. The likes of Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason etc. were stars of my grandparents’ generation, who were adults during the war years. My boomer parents were very young when they were big.

  8. That man in the same picture as McCarthy looks sad and lost and like he’s given up. Given who he’s sitting next to, I do not hold it against him.

  9. Curious that the photo of Lucy on the cover seems to be from the movie Mame. No TV show?

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