“Don’t touch that dial!” probably hasn’t been heard from a television set in a few decades. It’s a cultural relic of the 1950s and 1960s TV world. It has been parodied since those days, but the reference is probably now so distant as to be no more relevant than “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” (Say what, Gen Z?)
But now you can touch that dial once again, virtually, thanks to the industriousness of Joey Cato. Cato’s a “designer” and responsible for the online My Retro TVs.
Looking a little low-rent (that is possibly part of the charm?) My Retro TVs offers the true televisiophile a date with the dial in its native habit, more or less. “TVs” from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s are available for channel/web surfing.
Click on one of the authentic era TV icons and programming from that decade begins playing on the screen. It can be filtered by genre or just left to randomosity. Genres include: cartoons, comedy, commercials, drama, gameshows, kids, movies, music, news, soaps, specials, sports, talk shows, trailers, plus some miscellany.
(I do wish to register one annoyance — YouTube’s banner ad are particularly annoying with a greater coverage of programming material than usual. But that can’t be controlled since Cato is simply streaming the streamer.)
With the 1960s and 1970s TVs you can even play with some of the technical foibles of those ancient devices. Kids today just don’t know the heady dynamic of “noise,” more commonly called “snow.” Consider yourselves lucky.
So what inspired Cato to create this prospectively enormous time-suck?
He says, “I’ve always been a huge ’80s nostalgia nut. I grew up as a poor child of the ’80s in a small town with limited access to the full pop culture experience, so in a sense I just wanted to make something that helped me reconnect to/reclaim the past.”
In addition, he recalls book and web influences. “I had read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline back then and it really left an impression on me. If anything, it inspired me to make something that was ’80s themed. Also around that time I discovered a cool website, the90sbutton.com. I liked the approach they took with music videos, so that influenced my decision on which media to choose.”
Where does the vast amount of programming, numbering in the tens of thousands, come from? How did he find all that historical material? How has he secured replay rights?
Why YouTube, of course. He’s streaming the streamer (in a wonderfully subversive and retro hot-linking scheme.)
I do have one complaint, however. YouTube’s banner ads are extremely annoying in this context.
But back to our regularly scheduled programming (bet you haven’t heard that one in a while, if ever) …
Just in case some super-dedicated TV-holics manage to watch the days’, maybe weeks’-worth of programming now available, Cato’s mission is to explore strange new programming; to seek out new shows and new episodes. To boldly go where no retro TV has gone before.
So long as it is within the time frame and on YouTube, of course.
He explains, “I already have a process in place to crowd-source the site with user suggestions (each TV portal has a suggestion box link where users can contribute their own YouTube clips.) I also routinely run some automation scripts from time to time to make sure the site stays fresh.”
What a guy!
Cato adds, “Originally this project was a labor of love, but hearing folks from all the world share their memories and stories with me was probably the most rewarding experience of making this project.”