May 23, 2007
At work I'm surrounded by the latest computer hardware and software technology, and at times feel like I'm living on the bleeding edge.
At home, I'm a technology luddite (well maybe laggard is more accurate). Typically it takes life changing events to cause me to adopt new technologies (my iPod being one notable exception). No Blackberry's or Treo's for me (witness my paper schedule at NAB). It took becoming a parent to make me realize the benefits of a microwave oven and answering machine (my attitude was, hey, if they want to reach me, they'll call back). And much to the frustration of my sister in-law(who apparently has busy signal issues) I don't have call waiting, caller id, or caller anything for that matter.
My television consumption until now was limited to the half dozen semi-snowy channels the rabbit ears on my 15 year old 14" Sanyo television in my bedroom picked up (7 channels if I was willing to mess with the rabbit ears). This hasn't been much of an issue because I don't watch that much TV (I'm a DVD kinda guy) and have been spending more of my limited media leisure time online anyway for the last 10 years or so.
Well a life changing event put me in the market for a new television and DVD player. I got to become a living example of the Paradox of choice (video), or article. First decision was SD CRT (which would have been easy way out) or Wide screen which led me into the world of "HD Ready" HD Almost Ready" and "HD Really". This was before I even reached the, LCD vs Plasma decision, and semi-related "What size screen?" decision and then the various brand choices.
I had just finished reading the "Paradox of Choice" and was determined to not be a "maximizer". Given I don't replace my TVs very often, I decided to go "HD Really" and made sure I bought a set with an ATSC NTSC & QAM (not sure what QAM means) Tuner. Didn't know what this all meant other than if would receive HD off-air signals. Screen size and budget (no TV is worth more than $500) led me to LCD and I was leaning towards a Samsung (even willing to spend more than $500) until I discovered that there was no standardization on how manufacturers report their contrast ratio and that brand X's 14,000:1 wasn't necessarily better than brand Y's 7,000:1. There was one additional spec that got factored in. I didn't know exactly what an HDMI port was, but instinctively knew I needed/wanted at least one (even though I didn't have anything to plug into it).
Anyway to make a short story long, when I saw the Toshiba Regza 32LV67 with a built-in upconverting (sounded like it was and important feature) DVD player (meaning I'd be spared the agony of choosing from the sea of DVD players and I'm not ready to make a Beta/VHS decision on HD DVD formats), I was almost sold (it was still more than $500 sans the $150 I allocated as the DVD player porition). When the sales person offered to discount it by the sales tax (note to self: always look indecisive and enter the store 10 minutes before closing on the last Sunday of the month), I whipped out the credit card (too bad I didn't ask him to throw in the pair of rabbit ears).
Anyway, I got it home, plugged it in and all I can say is WoW. The off-air digital reception is amazing. I don't know why, but I assumed that the quality of the signal would be the same as what I was getting today (after all, I'm not any closer to the transmitter), but its crystal clear SD or HD. Also, once I saw some programming in HD, I must admit it made me want to watch television more than before. The interesting thing I've noticed after two weeks is how few commercials are being produced in HD (I'm assuming HD production costs are still being billed at a premium and are hard to justify).
With only 636 days left until the conversion to digital is officially here in the U.S. (here is a link to converter box coupon program for those of you like me who are laggards in adopting new TVs or accidentally bought an "Almost HD Ready" TV recently), I expect that we are getting close to HD production costs becoming commoditized).
Now please don't disturb me while I watch the finale of American Idol (in HD?) tonight :-) I hear both finalists are from the Seattle area!