The last time I bought a
television it was a simple, straightforward process. I trundled down to
Vancouver in the early 1990s, wrangled an oversized shopping cart with a
perfunctory wobbly wheel into Costco, took stock of the handful of sets they
carried in the size I wanted, chose a mid-priced one and walked out with a
medium-size dent in my Visa card.
Back in Whistler, I wrestled
it out of its box, set it up, plugged it in, slipped fresh batteries into the
remote control and pushed ‘On.’ The screen began to glow, sound came out of the
speakers and I settled in to watch the MacNeil/Lehrer Report. The picture was
great. The news was grim.
I began to fiddle with some
of the buttons on the remote control. A couple of very simple menus tweaked the
sound and picture quality and I found the button that toggled between cable and
VCR input. There was nothing else to adjust and the whole process — excluding the
always painful trip to Vancouver — took less time than driving the empty box
down to recycling.
In TV world, that’s what
passes for the Good Old Days.
Today’s brave new world of
television is a labyrinth of confusing choices.
When once all you needed to buy a television was a bit of
cash, a bit of time and enough common sense to select a set that’d fit where
you intended to put it. Today, it’s advisable to pack along an electronic
engineer and a credit card with lots of room left on it.
HDTV, HD-ready, HDMI, DVI,
1080p, 1080i, ATSC, NTSC, KHz and the rest of the alphanumeric soup tossed
causally about by TV geeks at big-box stores all mean something. Exactly what
isn’t always clear… even
they try explaining it, assuming they do. Toss in the comparative differences
between plasma, LCD, rear projection, front projection and Organic LED and it’s
enough to feed any predisposition a guy might have towards procrastination.
I’d nursed a jones for a
sleek, new, flat-screen TV since the first time I ever saw one. That was
a human generation ago — 7.4
electronic generations — in a high-end toy store I used to visit in Vancouver
to torture myself. It hung on the wall(!), looked like a glowing,
three-dimensional jewel chest and cost $22 grand.
By today’s standards, it was
tiny, but it triggered lust in me that could easily have become felonious were
it not for the knowledge the authorities wouldn’t have let me take it to prison