Sears Spring/Summer Catalog, 1980
It’s hard to appreciate how many modern conveniences, particularly of the electronic variety, began their lives so awkwardly. Look at video captions. Or perhaps your hearing is fine and you never do…except that an awful lot of Facebook and Youtube videos are subtitled these days so you don’t disturb your coworkers. But captioned video is all around us – more and more automatically generated – for whoever and whatever needs it.
Which is why it’s startling to see early attempts at closed captioning like this Sears-Exclusive device that brought closed-captioning to your existing TV for the not-insignificant price of $249. So A) it’s expensive. B) It’s awkard. The box sat on your TV like an early video game console and replaced your existing TV tuning. C) There wasn’t much you could watch. Barely 20 hours a week, and one whole major network missing in action.
Today, everything’s captioned, and the subtitle decoder is built into TVs at the cost of a few pennies.
Still, it was a start. It’s just ironic that they couldn’t have noticed the typo in their on-screen example caption. Zoom in and look close…