Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our Lives Are Complicated Because We Let Ourselves: TV Adventures

As I continue to create a new home in Palm Springs, one of my first purchases but only realized last night was the installation of a new Visio flat screen television. Because we had already set up the stand for it the day before (another tale on how NOT to write instructions) it needed to be removed from its box and mounted on the pole that lifted it from the shelves with enough room for the new sound bar.

Luckily my next door neighbor is a geek. He spent a better part of an hour setting it up. As I found out today ... if you're a senior you better find someone under 50 to help you. Brought back memories of my Motorola Razr, pre-iPhone, the latest thing in tech phones in 2007. Only it was impossible to set. I usually had to go to the AT&T store or find a 15 year old to change or add the settings for me. It might as well have been in Chinese. That's why the iPhone became so popular. You could actually make or download changes all my yourself.

This TV is an adventure in itself. I am 70. My family in the early 50's had the first TV on our block and maybe several others besides. You turned it on, the TV schedule was in the paper, turned the dial to the station you wanted then sat down to watch. Your menu choices were sound volume and maybe making the picture darker or lighter. The other, and often frustrating adjustment was getting the antenna right. A great deal of time was spent getting those "rabbit" ears just right. And once set for one station, it was no guarantee that it would be right for the other. Our station choices for many years were ABC, CBS and NBC. Slowly local channels came along and then PBS and a variety of channels from 14 - 98 often even harder to dial in.

Cable remote, Speaker Remote
and the TV remote
Today, with cable, you have 200, 300 and even more channels to choose from but you still often watch a handful.  One day as I flicked past every channel I could get on Charter Cable, I found that half or nearly half were channels selling something I would never, ever buy. I had to pay for this? Really?

Which makes Verizon's Fios deal a good choice.You get to pick, I think, 15 channels for $50 a month. Cable may soon be as dead as a dinosaur as more and more content is moving to the web. DirecTV broadcasts from outer space but basically with the same cable format. More and more kids are streaming directly from the web and getting their content far cheaper than cable. If I were a cable stock holder, I'd say that in a few years they will be superfluous. SELL! Invest in the providers directly. No more need for monopolies in restricted areas that have been cash cows to cities for years. With the web you can get your content anywhere there is wi-fi and that is becoming as ubiquitous as air.

But back to my adventure. We got the TV set up, synced the speakers and I was told to not touch anything except the on off switches and channel selectors. However, easier said than done. These are the remotes I must turn on or off just to watch TV. Not sure if the sequence makes any difference yet but what was frustrating to me was the fact that even with a 4K, 1080i, LED TV, there is no guarantee Time-Warner or the channels they provide will give you that resolution. A movie I tried to watch on HBO kept saying it was broadcast at 480i and I kept trying to change that setting as it was pretty fuzzy ... especially watching it on a 50" TV. My neighbor fiddled with it awhile and finally realized and demonstrated to me that this was the resolution it was being broadcast at. As we flicked through the channels we saw three different settings ... 480i, 720i and 1080i. The TV was just showing what was being broadcast.

Watching "The Incredibles" last night on the Disney channel I thought I was in the theatre. Glorious crisp image and sound, that compared to what I had ever had before, was stunning. So it is worth it but goodness what a lot to go through. I am tempted just to leave it on for fear I will mess something up yet again!

So yes, we live in a complicated society that has forgotten Coco Chanel's dictum, "Less is more." Just because we can add all these features, do we really need them? Remember the VHS recorder? No one could program them and one wag on TV suggested that you cover that blinking clock flashing 12:00 for ever with a piece of black electrical tape. A neighbor. a bit older than me. told me not to get too upset; he has the same problems. All he wants is to turn the TV on and watch the channel.

Thank you for reading my blog. It covers the designs of daily life ... the bad AND the good. Please check out earlier blogs. 

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