By The Phantom
From the day we arrive on the planet
And, blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found…
LION KING — Circle Of Life Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Thus begins the theme song from the 1994 Disney animated film The Lion King. The plot is the birth of a new King of the Jungle and the adult idea behind the movie, at least as I see it, was that the circle of life goes on forever in a, well, circle. Or better, a spiral. Each generation pops on stage for a little while, building on what the previous generation did, and laying the foundation for the following generation’s work. So it is in cable TV, our beloved industry. I’d say that the third generation is hard at work now, building on the analog and basic digital transmission of the second generation, developed as I and my cohorts haunted the industry. And we built on the efforts of the first generation, which started the industry. What the first generation did may seem simple to some of us today, but it was ground-breaking at the time. The industry consisted of small mom-and-pop systems assembled on a shoestring and serving a small local population.
True story from my very early days haunting the industry, circa 1973. There was a small, less than 12 channel system down along the Gulf Coast. The entire headend consisted of one or two racks of gear, nothing more except for antennas. One morning the owner woke up and as was his habit, spun the dial on his TV to see how many channels had managed to come back on that morning (no TV stations ran 24 hours back then). Imagine his shock when every channel was pure, unadulterated snow! He got dressed and tore down to the headend to see what had failed. When he got there, he found…nothing. Seems that overnight someone backed a truck up to his building and swiped the entire headend. He called us a few minutes later and told us what happened. He gave us his channel line-up and said his sidekick was heading for our location, and we were to have him a new, packaged, checked out headend with all levels adjusted by the time his pickup truck got there maybe 7 or 8 hours later. Then his guy would drive it back and install it that night (I hope he had more than one guy). We had to scramble, but as the truck pulled up, we were just completing signal level adjustments, and we loaded the rack on the pickup. He was back on just over 24 hours after being ripped off.
That arguably was about the close of the first generation of the cable industry, and those of us in generation 2 were mounting the broad shoulders of the giants of the first generation, and beginning to take the reins for the next round of progress. Now many of us in the second generation are exiting the stage (Dan has just collected his cowboy boots — Dan you left a pair behind the CMTS [I won’t ask] — and exited), and the third generation is onstage. Hopefully we have provided some broad shoulders for you third generation folk to stand on, and you will take the industry to greater heights, while preparing even broader shoulders for generation 4 to someday stand on.
Of course, this image is over-simplified: as the song says, it’s a circle of life, with people getting on and off all the time. It’s not marked by a new lion king being born, but is more a continuum of progress, each bit of progress being built on the progress that came before. But it helps our feeble minds to divide progress into generations. Did my generation build a firm foundation for the progress your generation has started making? Will your generation build a firm foundation for the generation that will someday follow you?
You never know when The Phantom is standing right beside you. Sometimes he is in a meeting with you or walking the floor at your favorite cable show. Sometimes he’s hanging with the suits and other times with the front liners. But be assured, The Phantom sees all, The Phantom knows all and, most importantly, The Phantom tells all.