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The Self Loathing of HDTV

I really want to like HDTV, but its hard. When I was a kid, we moved from LA to Sacramento. To put it mildly, Sacramento is and was a much smaller town than LA. When we arrived, I found that there was only one UHF channel ( Channel 40), and its was, shall we say, light on content. Until 3:00 in the afternoon, They only showed Public Service Announcements, like "take the bus to work, you know you want to!", or "trash, its all your fault!". At 3:00, Cap'n Mitch and his "Cartoon Lagoon" started. At 4:00, two mid 50's sitcoms. at 5:00, the Dinner movie at 7:00, two more sitcoms, then "The Big Movie". after the big movie, it was "The Late Movie", by Midnight, they signed off.

Thats right kids, in the old days Ron Popiel, Christy Lane, and Guthy/Renker didn't rule the late night airwaves, they just turned the damn thing off. Off! can you believe it!

Oh, and if youre wondering about cable? Sacramento didnt get cable till after Leningrad got cable.

HDTV is like UHF channel 40 in 1972. You want to like it, but frankly, theres not a whole lot there.

Now, I love HDTV. My problem is the providers dont PROVIDE HDTV. Content for HDTV is equivalent to the mid '70s UHF channels. Travelogs, an occasional movie, not much. Why do I bring it up now? Because tonight is the start of the Olympics. So, I say to myself "oooh booy! the Olympics in HDTV, that'll be great.

Oh, you dont live in New York or LA? dang. Sorry, No HDTV Olympics for you then.

I get on the phone, 1800-DIRECTV, ask them whats the story on NBC HD. Ha! Unless I live in a city with an NBC "Owned and Operated", I'm hosed. When I say hosed I mean I have to watch the local affiliate.

The thing is, I hate the local affiliate. Local news is whats keeping aliens from visiting earth. You ever watch the news locally? I dont think Saigon saw the kind of chaos and disaster that are reported on the local news nightly. If I have to watch local news, I'd rather watch someone elses local news. I dont care if a school in my town burns down, but if a school goes up in Seattle, Im fixated.

The other thing is, If I use the local affiliate, I have to use the HDTV over-the-air antenna.

Digital Satellite - 500 channels, but to get the crap content of ABC CBS and NBC, I have to use modern style rabbit ears. Now when I say crap content, you have to realize that a big chunk of the weekly HDTV time goes to two shows, both of which are CSI. And forget about using the Tivo, Tivo doesnt record in HDTv, so I have one more indignity to endure. I have to sit and watch the show live commercials and all. Its so degrading. If I want HDTV, I have to (gasp!) sit down and watch the show. I have to remember to be there at a specific time. I feel like my father listening to the Jack Benny show on the family radio in 1944.

I Really like the fact that I spent $1500 for a an HDTV capable TV. I'm ok with the $500 I spent on a directv receiver. I try not to think about the fact that its all for TV shows for which I wouldnt buy the DVDs if they became available.

Help me out here Directv. I really want to be a fan.

August 13, 2004 at 10:16 AM in HDTV Olympics | Permalink


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I would like to be the first to thank you for funding the early (and therefore expensive) generations of HDTV, thereby making the future generations of the technology both possible and affordable for starving students such as myself =).

Posted by: Tom | Aug 13, 2004 1:56:34 PM

That seems to be my role in life. "Underwriters labratories" for failed or half-assed Technology implementations. As a former owner of a Pontiac Fiero, Suzuki Samurai, 128k Macintosh, Sony BetaMax, Quadrophonic Stereo, the list is nearly endless of the things I looked at and said " hey that looks good! that the market eventually rejected.

As far as HDTV. I do like it. I really do. It might be a bit premature right now to go and invest in a big setup just now. If you are in the market for a new TV, then I would make sure I got one that was HD capable, but I wouldnt go out and get an HDTV expecting to watch a lot of HD shows. Until there is more content, its hard to justify.

Posted by: Frank Martin | Aug 13, 2004 2:19:56 PM

HDTV? Hell, I'd settle for a TV larger than the 13" I'm watching now!

By the way, I gotta tell you - remember TV in the 70's and the very early 80's. 13 channels, maybe 15 if you got lucky. I remember TV before MTV and HBO. I remember watching the test patterns with my mom when I was up late at night, sick and unable to sleep. I remember thinking I would die because cable hadn't hit my neighborhood like it did at my best friend's house.

That was a lifetime ago.

(P.S. I really love your "About Me" page!)

Posted by: Da Goddess | Aug 13, 2004 4:19:58 PM

I really fought getting a new tv. but the old one ( 27 inch korean brand ala costco ) it just died. Since we have small kids and we hate the use of baby sitters, Netflix has become the substitute for the drive in theatre of the past.

So, seeing as how we never go out and seeing as how we needed a new TV anyway and seeing how it was afterall , christmas for gods sake, it wasnt too hard to up the budget for the one we got.
Despite being berated for not going plasma by my techhead buddies( Gentleman!, I am NOT paying more for a TV than I did for my first new car. I watch green acres and sealab 2021 for gods sake ), we still managed to get a good TV for not a whole lot more than the non HD version of the same size would have gone for.

It works great, it fits the alcove in the front room like a glove, as if it were part of the wall. Now, If I could get some damn HD content, I'd relax and stop worrying that I once again put the curse on new technology by being an early adaptor( see above for previous previous examples ).

The thing is, once you watch a show in HD, its hard to go back to normal display.

Posted by: Frank Martin | Aug 13, 2004 5:09:07 PM

Two nifty but flawed automobiles, an unneeded sound system, and the right technology ruined by the wrong marketing plan.

The Soviet movie establishment did extensive research on audio spatial realism during the '30s. The biggest jump is of course from mono to stereo, but the knee of the curve is at three. Effective three channel can be derived from a two channel recording with minimal circuitry.

Beta was a far better format than VHS. It is still in use at the commercial level, reel to reel. Sony went for 100% of the take from Beta cassettes, and wound up with 100% of nothing. If the technology had been licensed as openly as VHS, the better performance would have netted them a smaller percentage of an infinitely larger number. Other companies have made the same mistake thru the years.

Posted by: triticale | Aug 13, 2004 8:56:58 PM

Experimentation is sometimes its own reward. The only one I really regret is the fiero. That was a disaster, the rest were just market-obsoleted.

I still have the 1984 128k macintosh. It still works.

Posted by: Frank Martin | Aug 13, 2004 9:19:22 PM

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