Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Op-Ed: Media centers are today's fireplace

I rarely watch TV anymore, at least not on my television set. I have a Vizio VX32L, which four years ago was considered the best low-end 32" TV for the price of $600. Mine only cost $450 with shipping. I threw down another $150 for a surround sound system from Spherex (now discontinued). From that couch, I've sat and watched TV from my Verizon cable box, which sits beside an Xbox 360, Apple TV and a test desktop I sometimes use for side projects.

Mr. Case, who I admire because of his extraordinary expertise with all things tech, has a slightly better setup. I feel exactly as he does. My old Vizio needs a reboot to something bigger and with more ports to work with my OnLive microconsole, Logitech Revue and PS3. A new set of speakers can move in, preferably wireless ones, because far too many guests and family members have tripped over the cables. A new TV stand, or perhaps a wall-mount would do some good as well. Heck, the whole room should really be redone to optimize the family viewing experience.

In the non-TV movement - where we all slowly move to watching our favorite shows away from a set time on the old-fashioned box, and instead watch it whenever we want online, streaming to our computers, phones or tablets - his purchase of a new 30" monitor (a badass display at that) is absolutely fine. An old TV doesn't necessarily need to be replaced. But it shouldn't be forgotten, or left alone simply because nobody is watching it right this second.

Growing up, I remember enjoying shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Transformers, Scooby-Doo and others as a family. Sometimes I watched alone, and sometimes with friends, but there were always times when the family would huddle around the glowing box and be enthralled by a movie, or spend a lazy Sunday night curled up on the couch enjoying the newest episode of NewsRadio, or even watching the game during a barbecue. These are activities we could only do with a TV.

I agree wholeheartedly, I don't want my family watching any more TV than need be. At the same time, I recognize that over the past 60 years the television set has taken over the role of family storyteller. No longer do we sit around a fireplace telling stories. And I'm content with that. So long as I decide on what's a good story to watch, and for my family to see, why not have a more entertaining, more visually stunning and pleasing method? People get paid handsomely well to write stories just for this purpose, better than we can hope to for our children.

Would I buy a new TV? Yes, once the need arises. At this point, the 32" screen works just fine, though I recently replaced one TV in the house because the display lost it's ability to produce colors. I fantasize about buying a new TV like I do buying a new computer; I don't need it, but have that human want for the latest and greatest. And when that need pops up, I will put down for a bigger, better screen.

I rarely watch TV these days. Most of what I watch is on online. When I do use my TV, it's with the family. We share that time and enjoy it, even if at times it's something completely mind-numbing. Because in the end, I want those family moments to be the best experiences they can be.