“How does it work?” you demanded of the TV repairman after he had taken the back off and you both peered at the extraordinary tangle of tubes and valves and wires in there.
“Be careful you don’t touch nuffin, sonny,” the repairman warned.
“But how does it work?”
“Well… the picture is pumped out of the TV studio, sent along the cable to the transmission station up there on Mount Dandenong, shot up the mast and from there radiates out over the entire city, until it gets plucked from the sky by the aerial up on your chimley, and down into here and out onto the screen. Get it?”
“I know all that. I mean, what makes it possible to do all that? How do you make pictures fly through the air and come out right on everyone’s TV?”
“Jesus, sonny. I just fix ‘em. I didn’t invent the bloody thing.”
“How can he fix it,” you asked Uncle Kevin. “if he doesn’t know how it works?”
“He just comes around to sweep all the dead baddies out of the wiring,” Uncle Kevin offered hopelessly.
Even your science teacher could make a better effort than that. “It comes out as a dot that travels across the screen too fast for the eye to see, making row after row from top to bottom many times per second. If you look really close at the screen, you’ll see it’s actually lots of tiny horizontal rows.”
“But how does the dot make the picture?”
“Each tiny step forward across the screen is coded in a shade of grey, in exactly the same sequence as was the original picture in the camera. The dot is just a dot of light. The signal is actually a coded message saying how bright or dark the dot should be as it passes each spot on the screen.”
All those millions of coded signals in the twinkling of an eye, all coming out exactly right the way hardly anything ever did. It was truly unbelievable.
“But how does the camera code the message so perfectly, and the TV uncode it again…”
“Really, all that is just a bit too technical to explain…”
It certainly was. It lay beyond mortal comprehension—you could know how but you could never know why, a true miracle, except it caused me to begin to lose faith rather than gain it. Science, I then knew, had finally left Jules Verne and HG Wells behind, and me and everyone else along with it.