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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Monday, July 7 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterThe TVs of the future

Son Mike and I went shopping for a TV yesterday. Neither of us ever (virtually) sit in the livingroom watching TV. Both have TVs in our rooms and spend most of our time when at home in our rooms, more involved with our computers and the Internet than our TVs. I never turn mine on before work or before Saturday brunch (which usually gets going around 11:30 a.m.) or Sunday church; no morning television viewing, though for a time before my parents passed, I watched the Today show a bit each day because they were middlin' fans of Williard Scott and it seemed like a point of contact across the 2700 miles and three time zones that separated us. But as soon as I settle in front of my computer after work, I have to turn on the TV. Most of the time the sound is muted, but it's there for when I need a distraction.

Our livingroom TV is mostly for the use of our company, which mostly means the grandchildren (Mike's niece and nephew), who spend less than a whole day a year visiting us, it seems, but still it seemed necessary to have a set that was more comodious than the old one for when they're here. The old one was a 27-inch picture-in-picture quadraphonic-sound set from Montgomery Ward, The picture-in-picture feature was the first to go, and not long afterward, its audio followed suit, and then Wards as a whole gave up the ghost. The remaining picture "out of a picture" was still fine. Though at one time 20 or so years ago we had one TV stocked atop another to get the picture from one and the sound from the other, that was before the advent of the VCR (video cassette recorder, for any of you too young to remember those initials). It's not much of a trick. if you have a VCR connected to your TV (and who didn't in those days?) and a stereo radio nearby, to use the VCR as the tuner to pipe in the picture and forward it to the TV monitor and the sound to the stereo amplifier. We set it up that way and it worked so well that the VCR remote was all that was needed to control it all once all three units were on.

Then came the advent of the digital video disk (DVD) player and the VCR was yesterday's technology. Except that you can't record on them...yet. But who would want to watch a video tape after seeing a video in the DVD format? So we had to add a DVD player to the mix, just for the use of the grandchildren, as Brandi actually owns her own collection of digital video disks. But DVD players don't come with tuners, so far as I have seen, and there was no practical way to "daisychain" the TV, VCR, and DVD together so that all could be usable at the same time. To watch TV from the cable feed, the cable had to be connected to the VCR and daisy chained to the TV. For watching a DVD that player had to be daisychained to both the TV and to the stereo, but not the VCR, except for the audio feed. By this time, it became too complicated for me, though a desperate 11-year-old (as Brandi was last Thanksgiving) is amazingly resourceful. She could make the switch from her Harry Potter DVD to Nickelodian in a flash.

Our Comcast cable service in this area requires two cables, an A side and a B side. It's a big pain, because you get about 40 channels on each side, but have to switch from A to B and back all the time. "A" includes all the broadcast channels; "B" has all the basic cable channels like ESPN, Lifetime, TNT, Nickelodian, Weather, and such. For years, we got by with one A-B switch. Then about three years ago we added a second, so we had two of the household TVs on each switch. But last week Mike, who has too much time on his hands, got the inspiration to add two more A-B switches so each TV has its own. (This entailed rewiring the cables for the whole house.) Wow! What an improvement! Isn't high technology wonderful? (Or wouldn't it be if there were anything on worth watching?)

About the time Mike got the whole house recabled was when he got the notion that it was time to resolve the issues with the livingroom TV. We needed to buy either one unit with a DVD player and VCR built in, or at least one TV with both sound and picture, and a combination DVD player and video cassette recorder/player in one. We opted for the latter combination (because with the former scenario, if either of the units conks out, the whole thing will have to be scrapped; this way, either the TV or the DVD-VCR will outlive the other). We found that Costco (think "Sam's Club" if you live east of the Rockies) had a little bit better deal than Wal-Mart (under $400 for the works, including tax).

While at Costco, we saw a sampling of the new inch-or-two-thick flat-screen high-definition TVs. The smallest one, but also the one with the sharpest picture, had a viewing area about the size of a sheet of 8-1/2 x 11" computer printer paper. It was offered at the bargain price of $999. "I remember in the '50s seeing a news story saying that in the future TV picture tubes would be mounted on the wall like a picture," I told Mike.

Some futures take longer than others to get here. Remember the "flying cars" we'd all have within 20 years...also back in the '50s?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Rules to live by

Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?

— Sent by Judy Rose

Thought for today

She deserves paradise who makes her companions laugh.

— The Koran
Sent by Trudy Myers

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