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Feature Story 
Adventures in HDTV: Big Screen or Big Scream
When it comes to your next television set, will you jump with joy or scream in absolute terror? Read the article below that tells it like it was...and will be for you when you set yourself up with the new TV technology!
By Norman Morrison                    


Adventures in HDTV: Big Screen or...
Big Scream in Calhoun County Alabama...Adventures in HDTV: Big Screen or Big Scream


Adventures in HDTV: Big Screen or Big Scream
By Norman Morrison

            Several years ago, I purchased a very nice electric automobile at what I considered to be a reasonable price. What they didn't tell me was that the extension cord to get it home cost $47,000. It's much the same with this new fangled HDTV thing that's sweeping the nation.

            According to some source or the other HDTV is a 16:9 TV picture, whereas the TV you have now is a 4:3 flicker. Practically speaking the next TV you buy stretches that 4:3 ratio pic out to 16:9,  (Using intricate mathematics, one quickly sees that 4:3 works out to more like 12:9…not 16:9. So how they make that work? Hmmn!) which is not as easy as it sounds since the end result still looks pretty good. Ergo, the hero's face isn't bloated, or the heroine's chest distorted. It's all done with complicated computer algorithms and such. The bottom line is that whereas your present home TV is the apex of 60 years of engineering, your next TV will represent the beginning engineering of the next generation. It works, such as it is. I can't help but wonder if the VCR that goes with your present TV was just invented yesterday, would it be touted as the next wonder of the world. Up to 6 hours of video on a tape!

Your next TV is more about computers and the internet and hard drives than what you have now, and the aforementioned technology is more about spreadsheets than video.

            So whose idea was this HDTV? Nobody is sure and nobody is taking credit for it either. Most likely, some super secret video cartel came up with the idea and sold it to your Federal Congress. Regardless, the target date for full implementation is 2009. All TV stations are already supposed to have HD available. Cable systems, the choice of delivery for most city dwellers...well, who knows? Many cable providers offer some HDTV. They could do a lot more, but why do today what you can put off for tomorrow. Besides, what you gonna do about it? Write a letter?

            The bottom line is that whatever happens, it's going to cost you a lot more money! Somebody is going to be making a killing. So, what are you getting into with a technology designed for spreadsheets and computer solitaire?

            My own saga began when my old fashioned RCA TV went belly up one weekend. The question, whether to purchase another standard TV or take the HDTV plunge came to the fore rather quickly.

            The wife's only stipulation was that the next TV must last as long as the last...approximately 25 years. No problem, I quickly told her, though my research showed that it was more likely only about five to ten years, the Lord willing and no electrical surges. Further, like a toaster, when they break, you pretty much toss them out and get another. I had a lot of guilt on my shoulders, considering that the new TV cost about 7 times as much as a real good standard definition I could have bought. Pretty expensive toaster, huh?

            No slouch I, in the matter of technology, I was nevertheless, a complete babe in the woods when it came to HiDef...and I knew that going in. So, here's what I found out, which is the point of this article...

            First, here's what I had:

  • 27" TV just like your ma and pa always had if they lived to the age of color broadcasts.

  • Audio amplifier (Home Theater) with 8 speakers and a shoot load of in and out connections.

  • CD changer

  • Cassette player/recorder

  • VCR/DVD combo

            After choosing the brand and retail outlet I purchased a new fangled 50" Plasma TV. There are Plasma and LCD TV's available. Which one to buy is a whole other article. My understanding is that there will be no compatibility problems in the future, so this isn't a factor in your choice. Price and picture are your determinants. As for the price, my  2006 TV cost about $700 less than the same model in 2005. Since you may be reading this for 2007 and beyond, I can only imagine that the prices will fall similarly, though heh heh...I can't see them ever being as cheap as a toaster.

            What they didn't tell me, though they hinted at, was that the TV was just the beginning. They did offer pro installation with a real nice big money off coupon. What I discovered later, was that the pro installation would have been pretty darn expensive, coupon or no coupon, considering the time I put into it myself. So the discount coupon was sort of a joke with that particular sales establishment.

            After we lugged the set home, the next order of business was how to mount it. In the year of our TV, 2006 you have two options...wall mount or table mount. Considering that I would have to de-construct the wall and rebuild it to support the 105LB thin TV, I decided to go with the table.

            HDTV tables, ladies and gentlemen are very expensive. And I suspect that many of the wooden variety are nothing more than made over chest of drawers, refinished for quick sale to the HDTV suckers, of which I was most assuredly one.

            We selected the nice and expensive fakewood table...actually the only one we could find locally that would fit the monster, and spent a pleasant evening putting it together in the living room, the new HDTV sitting there on the floor beside it.

            So, with the table ready, we found that the support equipment mentioned above would not all fit. So out the door went the CD changer and the Cassette player. In the table went the amp and VCR, and later the set top box with the TV hefted on top. Nice!

            The next order of business was to make the amplifier, (home theatre gadget) and VCR talk to the HDTV. In order to expedite the matter, late that evening around midnight, before bedtime, I had marked all the cables on the amp (which look like a spaghetti nightmare) with little scraps of paper secured by tape. Everything had to be unplugged, you see, so as to put the wires thru the hole in the back of the chest of drawers.

            The next afternoon, I noticed that all of the papers were laying there in the floor in a nice neat pile, having fallen off the wires. Make a note to use better tape next time.

            So to work I went, matching inputs to outputs. I placed the amp and VCR on a plastic milk crate in front of the table then I got the speakers speaking...all eight of them. Thankfully most of the wires were long enough to make the trip thru the table to the milk crate.

            My amp has a test mode, so I cycled thru the speakers seeing that everything was nice and right. The next order of business was the VCR. Ha! What a sap I was! The hookup info in the manuals proved to be totally useless. Throw them out the door. What was before was absolutely no guide to what was to come! Used to be you could do everything with a couple of coax cables...the kind that feeds cable into your house. Not so with HDTV.

            My third trip to the back to the store involved the little known SVideo cable. Proudly, I hooked it up to the VCR and then and only then noticed that it was the output for the DVD player only...and then only the video portion.

            So, after much wrangling, and an effluence of leftover wires from my previous installation, I had the DVD video and audio plugged into the HDTV and working. Next, with more audio cables I managed to hook up the sound from the tape portion of the VCR/DVD combo player. Next I salvaged a cable from an old 1985 vintage Commodore 128 computer to make the VCR video connection. Ok, so now the VCR was mostly talking to the HDTV. Input/Output. Remember that.

            Your new HDTV will work with your standard cable hookup, but they say it works better with digital. So, off to the cable guys for a new set top box. Smiling, they hand you the box...and no instructions. They continue to smile as you leave, grateful for their excellent and courteous service, though your cable bill just went up at least $20 a month.

            Only when you arrive home do you discover that you are short exactly one HDMI hookup cable to make the set top box talk to the HDTV. Funny, the smiling cable lady did not mention that. Hmmn! What the heck is an HDMI cable… babe in the woods?

            After a bit of research you discover that it is a little piece of wire that carries video and audio to the HDTV, and without it you are dead in the water. So, now it's time for a price check. In 2006 the price ranges from $20 online (with shipping) to a magnificent $125 excluding tax and title, at the store where you purchased the HDTV. Is there a difference in quality of these cables? No. It's a matter of how badly you want it "right now", gullibility, and innocence of your character as to what your decision is. When your life is at stake, do you trust the part time guy in the ER or do you go for a second opinion. I decided to opt for the Wal-Mart version of the HDMI cable at $31. An equitable trade for speed of delivery, I reasoned. Truly, if you are an electronic babe in the woods with more money than brains, you are doomed to the higher price provided by the smiling video peripheral salesman. Chances are by the time you read this, the price of that $125 cable will have dropped to $4.95 anyway. Stratospheric price gouging can only last so long. I wouldn’t be a even a teensy bit surprised if some enterprising victim hasn’t already filed suit.

            So, after hooking up the Digital Set Top box to the HDTV via HDMI, along with Svideo, and Analog Audio, with accompanying Analog VCR Video, now I have a picture with sound! Then comes time to shift some of the VCR outputs and inputs around, which used to work right, but don't now, program the remotes, tweak the HDTV picture, blah-blah, blah-blah, and after only 4 days, the TV is complete! Frankly, after much heart palpitations, trips to the store for more cables, etc. the best video seems to come from the DVD player which is of course, not HD quality. In 2006 the true HD player hasn't quite been developed yet...or at least not fully deployed. What there is available is available for only 12X the price of a standard def player, and they don't come with a built in VCR.

            I have followed this whole debacle since its inception in the early 90's. I said then it was a load of crap, and I say it today. We simply don't need HiDef. Sit down in front of a good quality 13" 1998 vintage TV watching something you like and within 5 minutes your brain thinks it's as good as the best 68" HDTV available today. HDTV is overrated, overpriced now...doesn't last as long, and was invented by shadowy imperialist money mongers and voted in by 500 and something communistic money greedy congressmen, probably on the take, with the goal of draining your bank account and making you dependent on the gubment for your very existence.

            Aside from that, I like my HDTV a lot! Battlestar Galactica in HiDef really rocks the house!


Your further study list: SDTV - HDTV - SVideo - VCR - HiDef - High Definition - 4:3 - 16:9 - Plasma - LCD - 1080i - 720P - Interlaced Video - Progressive Video - Communist Video Imperialism Conspiracy (CVIC)


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