The electronics industry has finally caught on. It now follows the marketing path that the fashion industry has used for years. It goes like this: "Whatever we told you or sold you last year is obsolete. If we said to wear wide ties, this year you'll look like a dork. Everyone, dahling, is wearing skinny ties. You look like Bozo the Clown in that wide tie. You will now wear the skinny tie and wait for further instructions."
And so it goes in electronics. You stand in line to buy an iPhone or iPad and before you get back to your car, it's obsolete. Why you look positively silly, dahling, with that steam-powered clunker. Get back in line and get the latest gizmo — then you'll be cool!
It wasn't always this way. When Odd Parity was a kid, we had a black and white TV with a picture that was possessed. It would roll up and down or skitter side to side while Dad fiddled with the vertical or horizontal hold knobs. Occasionally, we'd get through an episode of "I Love Lucy" without incident, but most of the time, Dad was fiddling with knobs and softly muttering obscenities. We were usually a bit queasy from motion sickness as we tried to get our eyes to focus on flickering, fickle pictures.
Things went on like that for some years until we were coaxed into the wonderful world of color. Of course, we didn't actually have a color TV, but the ads were constantly reminding us that the rest of America was enjoying a technicolor paradise, while we stared at the flickering, temperamental, black-and-white, stone age TV. Once we got a taste of color, we were hooked. Of course, the color TV had even more knobs for tint, hue, saturation, and a host of other controls that Dad would twiddle so that the faces on TV were a strange blend of orange with some green or blue thrown in. Perry Como usually came through looking vaguely human. Ed Sullivan always looked like a corpse, but that had nothing to do with the tint or hue.
That was all we needed for years — a color TV and three networks. Then the electronics industry noticed that our savings accounts were getting a little fat, so they came up with (TA DAH!) home theatre. To have the true home theatre experience, we had to get a much bigger TV and a whole bunch of speakers so we could hear the actors tromping around the room as we watched. The only problem was, the really big TVs also had to have an enormous electron gun in the back. A 36-inch TV, for instance, had a bulging backside that was as large as the space shuttle. So families would cram into their home entertainment room, which was loaded with speakers and a behemoth TV. Everyone would get sandwiched in between the rear wall and the screen. It actually felt like they were right in the middle of the action, because everyone's eyeballs were smooshed against the TV screen, with ear-splitting sounds bouncing around the room and electrons being shot from a huge TV right into their eye sockets. What fun!
Of course, the electronics folks discovered a cure — flat screen TVs — which not only delivered the home theatre experience, but also relieved a lot of pressure on everyone's eyeballs. So we're all set, right? Ha, you silly, Bozo tie-wearing idiot! Of course you aren't finished, because now there's high-definition TV. With hi-def, you get a lifelike image of major sports figures scratching their private regions and spewing saliva in the dugout. At least it cut down on snacking during game time.
Just as we were getting smug, along came a gaggle of upgrades to keep us feeling inferior. First there's Blu-ray, which makes the picture streaming out of your old DVD, look like a grainy Thomas Edison movie. So we went out and got Blu-ray. So we're done, right? You big silly, of course you're not done! Now, everyone's wearing $200 3D glasses and watching sports figures spit directly into their snack bowls.
So where will this end? It won't. There will always be some new gizmo that will make your equipment look obsolete. Why not just connect your bank account directly to Best Buy and be done with it. They'll just transfer money out and send you all kinds of new stuff so you can get the feeling of reality right there in your living room.
Or, you could go for a walk. We hear tell that there's a 3D, hi-def, surround sound world out there.
By Mike Donlin.
Mike does technical, marketing and creative writing for The Write Solution, his freelance business. He can help your company wend its way through the vagaries of the English language, and prides himself on his intimate knowledge of gerunds, semicolons and dipthongs. If you'd like Mike to pen a tome on a timely technical topic, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-889-4955.