16 June 2010

does TV exist anymore?

I remember when my parents bought our first colour TV set. It was in 1980. Somehow my father convinced the delivery people to come out to a rural address during the Christmas-New Year's week frenzy so that we could have it in time to watch the Rose Bowl Parade.

Colour TV, of course, had been around since the 1960s, but my parents refused to buy a colour set for the first twenty years because, as my dad put it, "the technology wasn't there yet." We didn't get the see the NBC peacock unfurl in colour, but we didn't get to see sitcom actors with unnaturally orange skin either. We waited until the technology was acceptable, and then we bought into it.

The only significant difference between the new TV and the old one was the colour display. Everything else — the channels we could get, the time the shows were on — stayed the same.

Recently I got my first flat-screen TV. The old CRT-style set I had was a hand-me-down from my brother's girlfriend's grandmother (in the Eyrea, we're all about reuse before recycle — the set is now in its fourth home at an aunt's). It became very clear, however, that with this box — can we still call them "boxes" when they're nowhere near cube-shaped anymore? — didn't just involve a change in display technology.

Since I am old enough to remember 1980, it should come as no surprise that I am also old enough to remember the consternation of those who wanted to get into video games but were facing having to buy a TV set at the same time as a Pong console, because their set lacked the necessary plugs (or even the bit where you connected the forked wires to the screws) to connect the console to it. The new set has two HDMI jacks, two sets of RCA composite/component jacks, an SVGA jack to connect a PC with, and I forget what else.

Which means, to me, that it's not really a TV set anymore, even though according to the setup menu there is an aerial buried in the thing somewhere.

It's a display monitor. Right now I have four inputs and one output (sound to my stereo) attached to it, and I haven't nearly used up all the jacks (ports?) yet. Of course, The Eyrea has always been a cable- and satellite-free space, so no actual television broadcasts ever come across any transmission medium. The TV part is entirely disabled, and there's less than ever to mark that it's not there.

I know millions of people still have cable or satellite subscriptions, still think about how many channels they have access to, still gossip about reality shows. That seems to be the part that makes the mainstream news (also available on the same TV channels, or their newspaper subsidiaries), most of the time. But I know I'm not the only one who has decided to do without that particular media delivery system, and has instead gone for the local-network-with-single-display-and-no-streaming setup.

Anyone with a somewhat up-to-date system can do the same thing: just kill the broadcast downlink. Use the internet instead for when you want new data, like the latest headlines, weather, gossip.

I am very curious to see what will happen if and when a critical mass of people decide to do that. After all, the technology is there now.

1 comment:

  1. When are we losing free tv? Within a year or so, rabbit ears will be obsolete. I tape Coronation St. and sometimes channel surf but mostly I watch tv on dvd. At my gym, each elliptical machine, treadmill and stationary bike has its own tv screen with cable tv! Sometimes I get excited about what new show I can watch while I work out, but having to wait through the commercials is such a downer! Commercial breaks seem so long now!

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