Friday, May 6, 2011

The Future of Television

As an early adapter, I'm not very impressive. I'm guided more by my desire to live simply than to try something new. Although I've had a Honda Hybrid since 2002, I've actually all but given up my cell phone, which is now prepaid and has no message system attached to it. No iphone for me, though I do love my ipod touch, especially for the epicurious app that lets me get recipes right in my kitchen.

I am a fan of television, and though I think it would be virtuous of me to just disconnect the dish and not get any programming, I have been unable to pull the plug. We were among the first to get a Roku box from Netflix to stream videos on our television, and I could almost get by with that. It was a first step toward computer-driven television. So I haven't gotten a DVR, because I don't really want to pay to save more television shows. I want to watch less! And I definitely want to pay less than $600-$800/year for television.

Yesterday, I took the first real step and bought a cable to connect my rather outdated laptop to our pretty new television set. It's just a VGA cable, basically turning the television into a computer monitor. It also just connects video, so I brought down some speakers to run with the computer for sound.

As an experiment, it was successful. I was able to watch the episode of Upstairs, Downstairs that I missed, and the sound was only slightly out of sync and the images only slightly choppy. Later that night we had less success downloading a PBS Frontline episode, and settled for an episode of 30 Rock that was pretty badly synced. It was still funny!

I'm thinking what's in order is a dedicated computer (preferably a netbook) and an HDMI cable. And with those one-time investments, I could possibly return the dish! It's odd to think of the future resembling the past, but it means we would get down to radio as our primary news source (which it is already) and a limited television schedule. If we had to think of what we want to watch, instead of flipping channels to find something, I'm thinking at least the time I spend watching infomercials for extreme exercise programs will diminish.

And this morning, reading the campus electronic bulletin board, I ended up at a Web site that has a "live loon cam" focused on a loon nesting in Central Minnesota. I really like the idea of having something like that up on the television. Kind of like the yule log.

So here's to the future! And I'd welcome any advice on computer set-ups, etc.

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