Sunday, July 22, 2007

Home entertainment used to be simple and just about free. Until the early 8os, you saved up some money, bought a T.V., plugged it in, adjusted the picture, and you were set for about ten years. No monthly bill, no decisions, not much on the tube, but at least no stress.Then came cable, that was brought to you by the same people who also convinced you that you needed to pay for water in a bottle, a substance that you had been getting unlimited supplies of, practically for free, your whole life. I know people who spend more money on bottled water each month than it would cost them to get municipal water service in a house with five bathrooms for that same month. But that is not the subject of my rant today. Back to T.V.

I had been thinking of increasing the stress in my marriage for the last few months, so I began talking to my wife about getting an HDTV. The fact that I was doing this only showed that I knew nothing about HDTV. Until about an hour and a half ago I thought that the best thing about HDTV was renting and then watching your favorite movies on HDTV. Well that may be the best thing, but it turns out that to get HDTV movies you have to not only buy the HDTV TV and make an enormous cable upgrade to HDTV digital TV, but you need to buy an HDTV player (which cost close to what the TV costs) and then, if you can find them, you can watch one of the almost 100 movies that are in HDTV format.Let the good times roll !

I spent well over an hour with a nice young man in a T.V. store (actually home entertainment store, TV stores used to sell vacum tubes) who had curly black hair and a weird scruffy beard. If you had put a blue work shirt on him, and transported him back to my college days, he would have looked like on of the Trotskyites that used to be members of the Young Spartucus League. What he is now is a fountainhead of information about cables and boxes and very technical things that I have already forgotten, all which make up a portion of the decision you have to make if you want the privlege of watching one of the few channels that broadcast in HDTV, most of the apparently which just show updated versions of Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom. I could not believe that we Americans had gottern suckered into all of this just because a few rich guys, with nothing better to do, wanted to be able to count each blade of grass on each green on televised major golf tournaments. Now the whole damn country is having to adapt to a much more expensive way to watch old Andy Grtiffith reruns.It is just not right.

I actually found myself nodding while the Comrade explained to me the different colors of cables I needed and the difference in picture quality I would get if I bought the wrong ones.The correct ones were $75, the incorrect ones came with a box the cable people are going to rent me, but they are free (i.e. they are secretly rolled into the monthly price I pay for an aesthetically unpleasing box that I now must have). Then there was something about 780 v. 1080 or some numbers close to that, that meant the set either has a million pixels or two million pixels. Then he had to explain why ,when I was paying $300 more for the advanced Sony, I was still not getting two million pixels but just a TV with a processor that made one million pixels look closer to two million pixels than the old Sony did.

I bought the upgrade because he explained to me that the non-HDYV shows would look better with it. "Better than my old set ?", "No sir, not that good, but almost as good as your old set." So about 85% of the TV I watch will not be as nice, but Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom will be beautiful, as will the Super Bowl.Plus, in 2009, when the broadcasters all make the big switcheroo to Hi-def, I will not be left out. Well, not so fast, it turns out that every TV sold in the last decade will still be able to watch TV broadcast in high def. Even if your TV is 25 years old, the government is going to give you a box so you can still tune in.

So what we are talking about here is billions of dollars being spent by people (actually all of us are taking out loans via our credit cards to do this) so that we will be able to get a higher quality picture on a few shows, most of which we would never think of watching. And the money we are spending is mostly flowing off to Asia, not even staying here.That's not quite true, my cable company is American owned and they are making out like bandits on this deal.And there is no way in hell I am going to be able to understand how any of this works, so unless my wife is home and wants to watch something, I won't be able to see anything anyway.But come on over on August 3 when we fire up the new set. It ought to be specatacular.


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