my life was empty before high-def television

There’s nothing on TV. The writers are on strike and it’s the middle of a holiday season when programming execs know that everyone’s out shopping or partying or whatever and not sitting at home on the sofa. So there’s nothing on.

But I can’t stop watching. There’s nothing on and I’m glued to the set. Because I finally traded in my regular ol’ cable box for a high-def one. I’ve had my HDTV for six months, but I’ve been clearing off everything I’d recorded on the DVR built into the cable box. But I finally finished that chore and took the box down to the cable company and they gave me a brand-new box that looks exactly like old one. Except the pictures it brings into my TV are miraculous.
Look! You can see every bead of sweat on that basketball player’s forehead! Look! You can see every blade of grass on that football field! Look! You can see every tiny wavering cilia on that insect’s antennae!

I’m so ashamed of myself. You know how drunks desperate for a drink will guzzle mouthwash if they can’t get anything else? That’s me with the HDTV. I watched the 60s aquatic adventure show Flipper because the dolphin’s skin was so smooth and rubbery. I watched Spanish soccer because the grass was so damn green. I watched an auction of motorcycle parts because the metal was so impossibly shiny. I watched the Pillsbury Bake-Off because I could almost taste how delicious the Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Whatever was.

There’s a new window in my living room, and when I look out it, I see the space shuttle blasting off, gazelle bounding across the serengeti, and waves crashing along Hawaiian beaches. It’s amazing. How did I live without this?

Seriously, though: now I understand how people must have felt when TV itself was new, when suddenly the whole world and beyond — I’m waiting to see footage of the moon landing or the Mars rovers in HD — was at your fingertips. Maybe the arrival of color TV was the same … except I remember when my family got our first color TV in the 1970s, and I don’t remember it being as cool as this.

Gotta go: there’s people gardening on channel 728. Look how pretty all the flowers are!

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Ryan H
Ryan H
Mon, Dec 31, 2007 1:08pm

And you know what the best part is? It gets better. As far as I know, there are no stations broadcasting in 1080p. It is all 1080i or 720p.

A 1080p signal doubles the resolution of either of those.

Mon, Dec 31, 2007 2:39pm

I gots me the 1080p TV in anticipation of not having to buy another TV for a decade or so. My last one, the 27-inch square jobbie, lasted me about 13 years — and it still works fine. It just, you know, sucks in comparison.

Mon, Dec 31, 2007 5:39pm

Ryan, you are partly correct. Right now the only way to see anything in 1080p is to get a hi-def disc player (HD-DVD, Blu-ray) or to connect a video game console (Xbox 360, PS3) that outputs 1080p.

Strictly speaking, 1080p is not twice the resolution of 1080i. (Although in one way it is.) Here’s how they match up:

1080i = 1920 x 1080 output, 30 frames/sec
1080p = 1920 x 1080 output, 60 frames/sec

The “p” denotes “progressive”, which means that every frame is drawn in its entirety, 60 times per second. The “i” denotes “interlaced”, which means that half of each frame is drawn (odd lines), then the other half (even lines) is drawn. This results in half as many frames per second being drawn, so 1080i has a less smooth picture. (Ironically, 720p can look better than 1080i because the picture is smoother, even though it lacks as much detail.) The “double” thing is mostly a function of data rate; a 1080p frame is a full 1920 x 1080 pixels, while a 1080i frame is only 1920 x 540 pixels. The output resolution is the same, though.

I have two TVs that can take up to a 1080p signal, but they are both capable of displaying a maximum of 768 lines, or 720p. At some point, I will be upgrading to full 1080p TVs… I was (am) an early adopter, so I got into flat-screens before there was such a thing as a fully 1080p TV.

Even so, I do have a hard time watching anything that’s not HD anymore.

MaryAnn, you need to get some HD movie channels if you can. HDNet Movies, UHD, HBO HD, Showtime HD, etc.

Tue, Jan 01, 2008 12:18pm

My cable company doesn’t carry HDNet, but it does have an HD PPV movie channel. I’ll be checking out some of those movies.

Tue, Jan 01, 2008 3:08pm

The weird thing is that I think things look better on my HD set than they would if I were at the event, a football game say, or even some of the places on travel shows. Things seem to have a sort of glow in HD….

Tue, Jan 01, 2008 11:32pm

Do you find yourself lying to friends about HD watching? Are you watching before 6 in the morning? Are you avoiding social activities because they interfere with your HD watching? Have you found yourself watching,”Are you smarter than a 5th grader”?

If you answered yes to more than 2 of these questions, you may need to consider High Definition Viewers Anonymous. Remember HD watching can lead to enjoying CSPAN or religious programming. Don’t wake up one morning with the TV turned to Fox News – and no memory of how you got there!

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Tue, Jan 08, 2008 6:08pm

Of course, MaryAnn, if you keep bragging about your HD TV, you’re going to lose all your credentials as a starving artist. ;-)