This weekend I took on a project that would have taken a car mechanic about twenty minutes. It took me eight hours. And about half way through I was reminded of the time when I first tried to cut the cord. At the end of 2012, I lost my job and needed to cut costs. Every month I was paying Dish $164 per month and paying Comcast $91 for a total of $255. I did the math and realized that we could save a lot of money.
Keep in mind, I am a pretty handy guy and I like working with my hands. In my time I have built computers, installed an entire sprinkler system, blew insulation in my attic, installed numerous light fixtures, hung ceiling fans, repaired drywall, built furniture, installed car radios, put in a new toilet, and completed countless other home improvement projects. Since I know computers and networking, I thought it would be easy to cut the cord. Just like I thought it would be easy to replace a corroded battery terminal. It seems like all I needed would be a little ‘can do’ spirit, some music and the correct tools.
Ah, but it is never as simple as you think. First, the guy at the auto parts store sold me the wrong terminal type. He told me I might need to do a little prying to get it to fit but that it should work. But then, when trying to increase the size of the opening, I broke it. It is a soft metal and it was cold in my garage. Next, I tried to get the old terminal off with the new set of socket wrenches he sold me. But since it is a soft metal, something strange happened. When I tried to get the nut off, the entire nut and bolt kept turning together. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to do some banging to get it separated.
The banging is the tough part. An experienced mechanic would have known exactly what was going on and he would know when to use force. Since this was all new to me, I did not know how much force to apply. Would something break that would make me need to call a tow truck? And then the whole thing would end up costing me more than if I had just driven to the mechanics in the first place.
By the time I got all this figured out, the car parts store was closed. And my truck was parked in the middle of the garage so my wife could not park inside…and it was supposed to snow. So I spent the next hour trying to figure out how to connect the battery to the battery cable using various conductive materials in my garage. At one point, I got power flowing to the car but the engine would not turn over. I was pleased that I had managed to hack something together to get power but I had no idea why the car was not turning over. Thankfully, my wife is a good sport about my projects and it did not snow.
The next day, I took the battery to the car parts store and explained my dilemma. The battery needed a charge even though I had driven my truck around the day before. The manager of the store told me that I needed to use a different terminal type and was good enough to refund my money for the broken part. He said that the terminal type I needed would not last as long since it was a generic part. Normally, I try to buy things that will last but by this point I was desperate.
Then, after he charged the battery, his testing tool told him that I needed to replace the battery. Who knows if all my experimenting in the garage drained the battery. I am not an expert on auto electrical systems but I have the feeling that my experiments did not help the cause.
So, eight hours later I got it all figured out. Once I had the right part, the correct tools and a new battery, it was pretty easy. But I could not stop thinking about my first efforts to cut the cord. Back then, long before I joined Brian at freeTVee, it took me forever to figure it all out. I tried indoor antennas all over the place. I ran new Cat 5 wire to the living room. Countless hours were spent hunched over in the attic trying to figure out where all the coaxial cable went. And no one at any of the big electronic retailers could point me towards a complete solution.
Don’t get me wrong…it was fun in its own weird way just like changing my battery terminal was fun. But it took forever. Even my wife began to lose her patience. And I bought a bunch of tools that are only good for cord cutting. Unlike socket wrenches, which you can use for a wide variety of things, the tools you need for cord cutting are very specific and practically useless for anything else.
All in all, I must have spent over 100+ hours and $3000+ trying to find the best cord cutting solution. When people asked me about my hobbies I said “Cord cutting and golf.” In fact, my garage still has several shelves with cord cutting equipment I tried. There are media servers and strange android boxes from Russia and China all gathering dust. These devices all had their pluses but they did not pass the family ‘easy to use’ test. My wife’s patience only goes so far.
We say it all the time: anyone can cut the cord. You just need a lot of time, patience, the correct tools, and no fear when it comes to heights, closed spaces, spiders, consumer electronics and computer networks. Its as easy as installing a voice activated ceiling fan.