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Why Did Your Elders Call the TV a “Boob Tube”?

There’s a good chance you’d confuse anyone born after 2000 if you told them you were planning to go watch the “boob tube.” They’d likely raise their eyebrows at you and think it was a new website for adults. However, previous generations would confidently know that it meant you were going to plop yourself in front of a television and enjoy a program or two, possibly even a nap.

So when and why did previous generations call the TV a “boob tube?” Let’s take a closer look!

Does Boob Tube Mean TV?

People assign nicknames to many frequently used objects, including TVs. The term “boob tube” dates back to the 1950s when a popular newspaper column TV critic, William Ewald. He wrote, “As a chronicler of the boob tube, I have received hundreds of letters, but the bulk of them fall into predictable categories and can be answered rather simply.” 

While Ewald wrote the term on August 14, 1959, in the Marietta Daily Journal, it doesn’t tell us why it was called this. 

Why Did Your Elders Call the TV a “Boob Tube”?

At the time, “boob” was associated with a foolish person or someone participating in silly behaviors. They were, as Dwight Schrute would say, an idiot. To be called a “boob” was not a compliment.

As TVs gained popularity, many people began to think that much of the content that drew in viewers was foolish and often geared towards foolish people. TVs during this time used tubes that transmitted the image to the screen for viewers to enjoy.

The term combined two words that equally described spending hours in front of the television. While it may not have aged well over the past several decades, it made sense at the time. However, we don’t anticipate or imagine it will become a part of most people’s vocabulary. 

When Did They Stop Making Tube TVs?

Younger generations often find it hard to believe there was a time before TVs could hang on the wall. Almost all manufacturers stopped making tube TVs around 2007.  This was primarily because most retailers and manufacturers saw the changing demand for flatter and lighter TVs that took up less space. 

Consumers liked the idea of having bigger TVs without sacrificing living space. Now, it’s nearly impossible to find a TV in any size that’s not a flat TV capable of hanging on the wall.

Why Are Old TVs So Heavy?

Like many products, TVs have greatly benefited from advancements in technology. Initially, they were extremely heavy because they were bulkier and used heavier components. The tubes used to transmit the images, and the glass screens, which reflected the images, were weighty components that made up a bulk of the weight.

Even when the first flat-screen TVs began to hit the market, plasma TVs were still incredibly heavy. Carrying one of the first 42-inch plasma screen TVs was almost a two-person job for most people. Luckily, as manufacturers have worked towards improving the clarity of the image, they’ve also been able to slash the overall weight of TVs.

How Much Did a TV Cost in 1972?

In 1972, Richard Nixon was in the white house, and a 21-inch TV cost approximately $500. While many of us may not balk at spending over $500 on a TV, you must remember that 21-inches is incredibly small. People say, “We gathered around the TV,” because they had no choice if they wanted to see it. Watching TV from the other side of the room was nowhere near as common as today.

How Much Did a Color TV Cost in 1974?

The most popular TV sold in 1974 was a 19-inch one with a $250 price tag. As you can see, prices began to drop quickly, especially once newer technology began to hit the market. This is something we continue to see in our current day and age. You can now buy larger TVs at a fraction of the cost they were a decade or so ago.

1957 young boy with television

Is There Gold in Old TVs?

Manufacturers use a variety of materials when making TVs, including gold. However, besides gold, you’ll also find varying amounts of copper, iron, and steel throughout the TV. Some of the minerals can be refined and used in new products.

Before you think you’ve got a jackpot tucked away in the corner of your garage, you need to know that manufacturers used minimal amounts of gold when creating TVs. Some manufacturers opted to use tin platings instead of gold. Only the highest-end TVs would have spared the expense of using gold in them. 

Even with the generous price for gold, you’d have to have a ton of TVs and put in a lot of effort to have any sort of sizable value.

When Did Flat Screen TVs Hit the Market?

The first flat-screen TV hit the market in 1997. Fujitsu manufactured it, and it had a 42-inch screen and weighed 40 pounds. The flat screen provided an entirely new viewing experience that viewers enjoyed. It helped ensure everyone could see the entire screen without sitting directly in front of the television. However, while viewers loved the experience, they didn’t feel the same about the $15,000 price tag. 

Why Are Flat Screen TVs So Cheap?

If you’ve bought a new TV lately, you were likely shocked by the sticker price. However, many consumers experience the exact opposite of traditional sticker shock. Flat-screen TVs are incredibly inexpensive to purchase these days compared to previous years.

We can thank technological advancements for some of the lower prices. But there’s also a hidden secret to why many TVs are so cheap. It may make you uncomfortable once you hear about this secret. Manufacturers call it “post-purchase monetization.”

For the same reason you’re not paying to use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, TV manufacturers can sell their TVs at a discounted price. That’s because they can sell the data from your TV to advertisers. They may not know your name, but they know your IP address, what you like to watch, and when you like to watch it. This helps advertisers know what ads to put in front of viewers to make them the most effective.

Can You Still Find Tube TVs?

It’s hard to argue that tube TVs provide a better viewing experience than modern TVs. However, there’s something special about playing a classic video game or watching a vintage sporting event on a tube TV. You can relive the experience from your childhood or when things were a lot simpler, and you weren’t losing the TV remote constantly.

While you’re not likely going to see tube TVs in many retailers, you can still find them for sale on Facebook Marketplace and other popular sales sites. However, good luck getting finding someone to fix them if something ever goes wrong.

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