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The First Time I Saw Closed Captioned TV

by Branden Huxtable

Originally published in the December 1997 issue of the CSCDHH GA Newsletter


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For the longest time, my television viewing had been limited to whatever I could hear on TV, meaning hardly anything. Sometimes, movies overflowed with action where simple dialog would become minor distractions. Other times, I had to turn the volume up so high my neighbors could enjoy it too. Then I found some movies where no amount of volume control could bring any sense to the movie. In that case, I would simply make up the plot during the movie. Try that some time. You just may enjoy watching Cleopatra.

A friend of mine at work told me about a TV show on PBS about money. I wanted to see the program, but knew that the show would be loaded with voice-overs, so I told him I would not watch it for that reason. He asked me if I had a closed-caption decoder. I did not, but heard that Sears Surplus had one for sale. So, during lunch, I quickly drove over there, bought the last one and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at my watch waiting for the time to go home.

When I finally arrived home, I quickly tore apart all the cables behind the TV, VCR and cable box. I looked at all the INs and OUTs and STEREO ADAPTERs and INPUTs and OUTPUTs and TO TVs and TO CABLEs and connected the VCR to the cable box to the TV and wall with the decoder connected to the TV and VCR and the cable box with no connection and the wall to the TV with the VCR connected to the VCR with output to the cable box input to the decoder to output to the VCR connected to the wall and the TV with the decoder output to the VCR and input from the VCR to the wall. Needless to say, after 45 minutes I saw no picture.

After taking a quick break, I finally figured out what should connect to what. So I connected the TV to the decoder to the VCR to the cable to the wall. I still saw no picture. I looked over my connections, made sure they were all tight. Made sure the INs were connected to my OUTs. Made sure I had the right channel. Made sure I paid my cable bill. I sat back when suddenly the TV picture came. Turns out, I need to wait ten to fifteen minutes for the cable to come back after unplugging.

I had my decoder on. Channel 4 was showing Aliens. I waited for something to happen. For the longest time, no one said anything. They searched and searched for any alien creature that might be hiding. I waited and waited. Suddenly, an alien jumped out and the people screamed. There it was. My first words on closed-captioned TV: "Ahh!"

From then on, movies and TV shows finally began to make sense. Jokes became funny. Plot twists became intriguing. Characters became deeper. Unfortunately, Cleopatra is still deadly boring.

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