The soapbox is now open for business.
Recently, we have been treated to a television commercial where the spokesman wants us to dump the cable or satellite service and buy an outside antenna for local HiDef television stations – only local stations.
The ad is hard to miss - all over the place, actually - trying to sell you a HiDef Television antenna on the chance that you’re fed up with the high price of a satellite or cable subscription.
The ad claims we’ll save money that way, and we can, but there’s a price, and HiDef television is looking more and more like not just a mixed blessing; it’s not very well mixed, at that.
Let’s start at the beginning, and ask ourselves “Why did we switch from the old reliable Analog Television to High Definition Television in the first place?”
Answer: Because we didn’t have a choice, since all television stations would broadcast their programs only in HiDef after a certain date, and it wouldn’t work without a HiDef receiver and antenna. Otherwise, we had to stay with the cable or satellite, so there was no choice at all.
That meant that if we didn’t go with a cable or dish tv service, we had to scrap our present TV set and buy a new one, and, not using cable or dish, now you had to buy and install a HiDef antenna.
You could stay with the old receiver and add an adapter, but that was clumsy and just plain unsatisfactory, yielding only second-rate results. It still wouldn’t look as good as the HiDef, so if you wanted the real thing, it was going to cost you at least four or five hundred bucks for the new television set and antenna, like it or lump it, thank you very much.
And what do we end up with?
Well, the results could be better, to say the least.
The first thing "they" told us was that HiDef would offer a picture in finer detail, with more brilliant colors and so on and so forth - which it does – but hang on tight. Here come the facts they didn’t mention.
Sure, High Definition television is high-tech and yields a clearer, brighter picture, but it’s also vulnerable to the weather, AND … (a) The local TV Station’s coverage area where it can be received by an outdoor antenna is much smaller - smaller yet if you rely on an indoor antenna, and that’s just the beginning.
(b) Now, about that vulnerability thing; the high definition signal is very vulnerable to the weather and can be made unwatchable or wiped out completely by heavy or even medium-heavy rain or snow (like satellite television, but much more so), but also by high winds, so, come wind or rain, you’re not just annoyed, but left with very limited choices available until the weather cooperates, and how can you check the weather, since it just made tv reception impossible?.
As if that isn’t enough, worst of all are those sub-channels that are replete with reruns and re-reruns and other inexpensive (cheap) “fillers”, plus a few original programs of very limited interest, including hundreds of cooking programs, home repair programs, divorce or small-claims court programs, and if you get really desperate for something else to watch, you could probably find some taxidermy lessons if you looked hard enough – all of which can get pretty boring pretty quickly. They’re still mostly those very old programs you’ll never admit to watching, but now they’re unwatchable in HiDef Television.
The HiDef picture is great, the color is better than you’ve ever seen before, but the programs leave something to be desired, as there are only so many do-it-yourself programs, only so many cooking or sewing or oil painting and home improvement programs that you can watch without coming down with a near-fatal fit of yawning, and if you insist upon looking for entertainment programs, you quickly discover that those reruns are at least twenty, and as much as fifty years old, plus there’s one channel that two months later, still hasn’t switched their onscreen schedule to Daylight Saving Time!
Maybe crossword puzzles could be your answer, but puzzles or no puzzles, so far, High Definition television isn’t the answer to your quest for entertainment.
But it does make an emergency nightlight. Just turn off the audio and let it glow, since it works better as a nightlight than as an entertainment center.
HiDef has potential, but so far has turned out to be just one more expensive government idea, with the predictable result.
Once again, we are underwhelmed.
— Newton columnist Mike Morton writes weekly for the Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike’s book, “On The Loose Collection, Volume One” is on sale in Newton at the Kansan, 121 W. 6th St., and at Anderson’s Book & Office Supply, 627 N. Main St.