This was a highly technical and, at the same time, a highly frustrating weekend.
Although, after an adult life spent wrestling professionally with computers and their ilk, maybe I have just repeated myself. Technical so often equals frustrating.
It think it all started right after the arrest of Whitey Bulger. With all those new pictures of him flying around, the calls, emails and other personal contacts started almost immediately.
A local attorney was the first to mention that Whitey Bulger and I look alike. I don’t see it personally, but my wife thinks so as do several others including Chuck, a local tree guy and one of the more observant people I know.
(A picture of me alongside Mr. Bulger is included, just to show you how far-fetched this idea is. Now if you were talking Harrison Ford, comparison picture also provided, I could see it.)
Then the picture on our analog TV shrank to a single, bright line across the screen and it was clear that the digital age was going to make further inroads on my life.
My first TV, many years ago, was a black and white portable, which gave way to an 11-inch Magnavox color TV about the size and shape of an early Mac. That lasted for many years and, when it expired, I went to Lechmere for a replacement. I assumed that I would simply get a new small TV, but it turned out anything less than 27” was more expensive, so I ended up with what looked like a wall-sized screen crouching on the bookcase.
Now, 15 years later and after two weeks of watching TV on a 13-inch screen resurrected from storage, it was time to go shopping again. The choice was surprisingly easy. Wendy and I zeroed in on a 32-inch high-definition TV, which was reasonably priced and which had a really wide viewing angle. It was also surprisingly light so physical setup was simple.
But then came logical setup. The picture was awful. “Sir, you need to exchange your old converter for a new HD converter,” was the response. That forced a trip to Arlington, It was amazingly simple, by the way, but I won’t bore you with the details.
Even with the new converter, things looked terrible. The proper aspect ratio was a mystery to me. Harry Forsdick and Ken Pogran, local gurus, cleared up several mysteries for me, but they couldn’t immediately help with why everybody looked short and wide on many channels. Auto didn’t seem to work. Zoom looked OK, but then the picture seemed cut off on all sides.
And frankly, the picture quality didn’t look like something for which I was glad to have paid money.
I called technical support. It was a good thing I had talked to Harry and Ken, because that is all that kept me afloat. The base knowledge the average consumer needs these days is astounding, but of course all kids are now born with it already in place.
“Sir, press Menu twice, then scroll down and look for Output Formats," said my provider of support. "Then right arrow to select a format. Use 1080i. Now, right arrow again and select 4:3 Image Stretch. Now left arrow twice and push OK. If you like what you see, press the yellow triangle button followed by the Info button.”
A major problem is that the printing on the buttons was in a font smaller than I could comfortably read, even with glasses. Another problem was a timeout, which ended just after I finally found the right button. There were, of course, no manuals for anything. Green as all get out, but it meant a lot of repeated actions.
The picture was still terrible. But then there was a bright thought from the technician. “Are you on the HD channels?” “Uhhhh—no …” Fantastic! All of sudden things looked great. Kisses and hugs (virtual, anyway) all around.
Now it was time to play with the sound and get the VCR working, something that really has to be upgraded since it does not support HDMI. HDMI? Well, yeah. I mean you gotta support HDMI for gosh sakes. As I said, it was a frustrating weekend.
Then I actually watched some HD programs for a couple of hours. The first thing I noticed is how bright, clean, and shiny everything looked. Then I noticed–and I don’t mean to be critical–how dead the humans looked. They were obviously heavily made up and in exactly the same shade one sees at open casket funerals.
I do a little TV. In the fall I do LHS football games, with Jim Baker for LexMedia. I am also on-camera for meetings of the board of selectmen and, now and again, I host a special show as part of the Lexington Selects information offerings.
After watching a couple of hours of high-def TV, I am incredibly grateful that I am recorded in low-def. LexMedia is doing a wonderful job on a very small budget, but the day they go to HD, I am going to radio.
Now, does anyone know the code for my VCR so I will need just one remote?