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The Trajectory of Television: A Big History of the Small Screen.

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

Television 134

antdude writes "Ars Technica has a three pages article on the trajectory of TV--starting with a big history of the small screen. From the article: 'Though it's a relatively recent invention, television is a pillar of Western—and even global—culture. Even if you're that one guy who makes it a point to mention that you don't watch or even own a television, your life has inevitably been shaped by the small screen to some degree. Popular culture has its moments of being swept up in the comedies and dramas of the airwaves, and television (cable news in particular) indelibly established in the minds of the world that instant access to breaking news on faraway continents is a normal thing.'"

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I am a TV set (3, Funny)

deysOfBits (2198798) | about a year ago | (#43991791)

And I have paid for this advertisement

Legal drug? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991809)

Watching people watching television, is like watching people stoned out of their minds. The blank expressions, the lack of awareness of their surroundings-- you can pass something quickly in front of a watcher's eyes, and he/she will not even notice. Careful, though, if you block the watcher's eyes for too long, you will receive the drug addicts wrath.

Re:Legal drug? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991983)

Same goes for someone who's enjoying a book, gazing at a sunset, or performing any other activity which does require focus but doesn't require any other form of physical feedback. Sure, some people express emotions when reading a book, but so do most people watching TV, unless it's simply not emotive content. If you're simply calling "focusing on something" a drug, you're crazy and have an agenda.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

Camael (1048726) | about a year ago | (#43992079)

Slightly off-topic, but there are some studies that appear to suggest that watching excessive amounts of television can detrimentally effect the development of children’s brains.

From the article [prisonplanet.com] :-

As reported by Reuters [reuters.com] this month, researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), found that background noise emitted from television is so distracting and mesmerizing to children that it is impacting their ability to interact with other human beings and potentially slowing down cognitive thinking and language development.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children in the US are now exposed to more than five hours a day of television. Matthew Lapierre, who led the study, explained that children who are subjected to the most TV spend less time interacting with other children and parents.

In a separate study [guardian.co.uk] , doctors at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in London found that children born today will have watched a full year of television by the time they are seven years old. The study also found that on average children now spend more time watching television than they do in school.

Dr Aric Sigman published the study in the Archives Of Disease In Childhood, a medical journey jointly own by the British Medical Journal group.

Sigman noted that such extensive exposure to television can lead to a void when it comes to social relationships, can lead to attention deficit problems, and can promote significant psychological difficulties.

Granted, none of these are determinative but it is still food for thought.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about a year ago | (#43992153)

> Slightly off-topic, but there are some studies that appear to suggest that watching excessive amounts of television can detrimentally effect the development of children’s brains

nOnSEnse eye watcHED lotS Of tV aS a KId and It didn"T buTHeR mE nun eYE tuRnEd oWt fyn

Re:Legal drug? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992147)

Watching TV does not require focus. It is the opposite. Folks who watch TV call it, "zoning out". You cannot zone out while reading a book. And, if you zoned out, staring at a picture of a sunset for 3-5 hours a day, nobody would consider that healthy and normal-- you might even be compelled to seek professional help.

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm [bls.gov]
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/americans-spend-34-hours-week-watching-tv-nielsen-numbers-article-1.1162285 [nydailynews.com]

Re: Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992293)

Depends what you're watching. Try watching a documentary about something you know little about.

Re: Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992559)

Try watching a documentary about something you know little about.

Good news though, given Slashdot's demographic, pornography probably qualifies.

Re: Legal drug? (2)

vuke69 (450194) | about a year ago | (#43992853)

I'm pretty sure we're all experts on pornography already.

Re: Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43993425)

I'm not but I swear I'm studying as hard as I can!

Re:Legal drug? (3, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#43992383)

I zone out while reading books all the time. My mind wanders to events of the day or nascent ideas I've been pondering. I often have to skip back several pages to get back into the plot.

Oh did you mean the other kind of zoning out where you are simply not paying attention to anything else as in completely focused and engaged with a single source of stimulation?

If you can't tell I'm calling your conjecture flawed.

TV is just a source of stimulation like any other. It's no bigger waste of time than a board game, running laps, reading a fiction novel or having non-procreative sex. None of these are productive activities and all are purely escapist therapy at best.

Re:Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992477)

Thats OK. Alcoholics and heroin addicts won't admit they have a problem either.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993467)

Says the guy who's having an anonymous to-and-fro argument on the internet in a comments thread almost nobody will read, rather than writing a proper piece of text on the subject like a purposeful, intentional human being.

Re:Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992693)

TV is just a source of stimulation like any other. It's no bigger waste of time than a board game, running laps, reading a fiction novel or having non-procreative sex. None of these are productive activities and all are purely escapist therapy at best.

Non-procreative sex is not a waste of time. You could argue that its more productive then procreative sex given the lack of long term after-effect (kids are great, sex is great but having kids really cuts down on the amount of sex and free time that can be had...) It has benefits such as:
- Good cardiovascular exercise
- Release of "feel-good" hormones such as endorphins
- Social bonding (even with a hooker or a random, having sex makes you feel more connected in the social web of things)
- Stress release (how many people do you know who have not felt better after sex even on the worst of days?)
- Combinations of the above help improve your immune system, sleeping patterns

Basically, sex is good for people. Hell, if you made it law for politicians to have sex at least once a week, politics would have a much better reputation...

Re:Legal drug? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992839)

Pfft, such great benefits:
- cardiovascular exercise, so i get all hot and sweaty and my prickly heat rash is triggered yet again
- always feel tired and achey afterwards, never 'good' (just like running/cycling etc. maybe i have no endorphin bladder or whatever)
- if social bonding is struggling to stay awake while conversing arkwardly, then yes
- stressful activity, stressful aftermath, every time
- not sure how all this improves my immune response, still less how doing something instead of sleep improves my sleep pattern

Re:Legal drug? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993407)

Some people "zone out" while watching TV. Some people actually pay attention. I typically watch movies and serial drama on mine, so it's not really an option.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43993887)

I suffer from CFS that makes it hard to concentrate at times. During those times I can't watch TV shows because I can't follow the plot and quickly get fed up. It seems watching some TV does require focus.

Re:Legal drug? (2)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#43993337)

If you stared at the sunset or read a book for hours every single day to the exclusion of all else you would have a problem too. Doubly so if that book never taught you anything or enriched you in any way.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43993911)

People long before TV used to bitch about books (novels and stories) being the Devil's own, distracting people from industriousness.

Re:Legal drug? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992359)

Watching people browse the internet is like watching people stoned out of their minds. The blank expressions, the lack of awareness of their surroundings – you can pass something quickly in front of a watcher's eyes and he/she will not even notice. Careful though, if you block the watcher's eyes for too long you will receive the drug addicts wrath.

(Off-topic, but where did you learn to use commas?)

Re:Legal drug? (2)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#43992459)

He probably read the comma sutra

Re:Legal drug? (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#43993361)

Watching TV is an exercise is killing time. That doesn't mean that reading 4chan or whatever is not also an exercise in killing time.

Internet addiction is a recognized problem in a few countries now.

Re:Legal drug? (1)

1s44c (552956) | about a year ago | (#43993323)

Television, the drug of the nation.
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.

I totally agree. Television is killing the time people should be using to do better things, and just about anything is better except maybe crime. I have a TV but I never turn it on, there is always something better to do.

Have you seen http://www.whitedot.org/ [whitedot.org] ?

a few comments (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991817)

Good article. I suspect the author originally planned to also discuss the trajectory of the content, which was clearly quite different decade over decade, but decided to stick to the techie stuff instead. Wise move.

In addition to NTSC - Never Twice the Same Color (one of the great retronyms in industrial history), there was also PAL - People Are Lavendar, and SECAM - System Essentially Contrary to American Method.

VHS tapes were pretty handy back in the day. They had two problems: 1) like other tapes, they tended to jam and become totally useless, and 2) the fidelity was really poor, something like half of NTSC in each dimension which wasn't very good in the first place. So watching a VHS tape wasn't a great viewing experience.

The stuff on Jack Valenti was overdone. OK, we get it, he was an alarmist on the industry payroll. Let's talk about the technology and how people used it.

Re:a few comments (1)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about a year ago | (#43991909)

It was a pretty good article. I didn't get any impression content was the motivation so much as protocol. Mentioning the court business did eat up a grip of the article, but it pretty noteworthy in terms of the scope of relevance it bears to us today. The anecdotes about pappy running three VCRs felt more filler than the court business. Appreciate the retronyms for the other standards. 5/5 comment. Would read again.

Re:a few comments (3, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#43992089)

VHS tapes were pretty handy back in the day. They had two problems: 1) like other tapes, they tended to jam and become totally useless, and 2) the fidelity was really poor, something like half of NTSC in each dimension which wasn't very good in the first place. So watching a VHS tape wasn't a great viewing experience.

The worst tapes for jamming were the blank ones that could fit 8 hours (160 minutes standard speed) on one tape. The tape was extra thin so more could fit on the spool, and that thinness made it much more prone the jamming up in cheap VCRs (which were basically ALL VCRs manufactured once DVD had gained a foothold). VHS tapes from the studios (movies) were typically very good, and there wasn't a problem with them jamming because they didn't need to fit 8 hours on one tape.

Regardless of the quality issues with VHS, it was such a game changer when it became prolific that I can only look back on it in a positive light. Before that pretty much the only option was watching what was broadcast live, or going to the movie theater. Either way, we did not have any control over what we watched and when. (Yes, I'm ignoring laserdisc or using a film projector at home, because both were read-only, expensive, and only limited titles were available in those formats).

Re:a few comments (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43993675)

The sad thing is that for all of the quality improvements in DVRs, they are a huge step back in many ways. Most of them seem to be more concerned with obeying the MPAA and the cable company than the owner. They also don't seem to like exporting things to long term storage very much. I still have VHS tapes from the '80s that work fine.

You just about have to make your own DVR to get it to reach the equivilent functionality of VHS.

Re:a few comments (5, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43992127)

Another generation will think TV was a total US 1950's all electronic patent race.
What about the CRT work of Ferdinand Braun, the Nipkow disk, the 1929 work of Francis Jenkins in the USA?
The work of Telefunken? John Logie Baird? The US/German/UK patent hunt of the 1930's?

Rotating-disk TV (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43992405)

There's a 1942s book, "Television, Today and Tomorrow", about the Baird and other rotating disk systems. At the end, there's a chapter about "electronic television", but it's dismissed as too complex and expensive. All those tubes!

Yes, I know about Zworklin and Farnsworth and Sarnoff and the progression from the iconoscope and the image dissector to the image orthicon. Then came color, which meant three of everything, including camera tubes.

Re:Rotating-disk TV (1)

mirix (1649853) | about a year ago | (#43992523)

Hmm, but American TV was already standardized to NTSC by 1940? or so... and had probably been electronic for at least 5 years before that, but not standardized yet.

From the mid 30's to the period through the war, there was massive progress in tube development. Miniaturization, cost reduction, and increased reliability, as well as multiple "tubes" in a single envelope (tube), more rugged, etc... at lower cost, too.

A sort of generic low power, decent gain triode, went from being something that was in a 1-3/4 x 6" bottle, to fitting two of them in a 1-1/8 x 3" bottle by the late 30s, to fitting two of them in a 5/8 x 1.5" bottle by the very early 40s... (though most miniature tubes weren't used in consumer equipment until after the war, total war and all that).

Re:a few comments (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about a year ago | (#43992273)

I've never had these bad experiences with VHS that people seem to have had. Not a single tape has ever jammed for me, and when HQ circuits and then S-VHS showed up, you could copy a DVD on there and not notice the difference. What kind of VCRs were people buying, and how long did they leave them submerged in salt water for them to perform so poorly?

Re:a few comments (2)

brantondaveperson (1023687) | about a year ago | (#43992291)

If I remember correctly, you could get some pretty terrible VCR's back in the day. I acquired, and used until the kids filled it up with sandwihches, a really nice Sony VCR that worked fantastically. Great freeze frame, frame advance, slow motion, all that. But my folks, for whatever reason, were always happy with the cheapest and nastiest players they could find. They made awful plastic grinding noises upon inserting a table, and generally died after about a year - usually taking whatever tape was inside them at the time with them.

DVD players, on the other hand, even the cheapest of the cheap, generally worked pretty well. Even if the lifetime of the really cheap ones wasn't all that much better than the lifetime of the cheap VCRs.

It's amazing what was inside those VCRs, just from a mechanical engineering point of view. SO complicated, so many oddly shaped moving bits of silicone-lubricated plastic. It's amazing they worked at all.

Television History (1)

fizzer06 (1500649) | about a year ago | (#43991843)

The wiki article is good, too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_television [wikipedia.org]

Re:Television History (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992119)

There's no "too" about it, since the ars technica article skips over the first few decades. As a history, that's pretty useless.

Re:Television History (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43992355)

As a history, the control of early electromechanical television was interesting.
If you knew you had light weight all electronic technologies ready to go in say 10-20 years - would you allow any one to roll out and get traction for mechanical system with a "commercial" television license before you where ready?
Read up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Francis_Jenkins [wikipedia.org]
A warning form history about been first, getting "experimental" ok from the FRC, not been allowed to advertise.
No ads where sold but public service annoucments about the kit form tv where made.
How does been first end? Been made bankrupt and having your assets sold.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (2)

atom1c (2868995) | about a year ago | (#43991899)

I'm now one of those in the "don't have a TV" crowd, and I believe that theories of economics have affected the masses by way of the television.

The Good for Viewers: A means of visually confirming events and visually experiencing other people's imaginations via scripted TV.
The Good for Broadcasters: A means of sharing an opinion to audiences in real-time (same goes for the Internet), which inevitably shapes "public opinion."

The Bad for Viewers: Increased exposure to opinions that may not be of interest -- which results in a reduction in lifetime sense of productivity.
The Bad for Broadcasters: Increased exposure and association to opinions which promulgate the decreased sense of productivity.

The Ugly for Viewers: Dumbing down of society thanks to the "rush to the bottom" of the social ladder in the quest for a falsely placed sense of greater social connection and relevance.
The Ugly for Broadcasters: Entirely responsible for the crap on TV and for the dumbing down of society to the point of retardation.

[end rant]

Re:The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about a year ago | (#43992325)

I'm now one of those in the "don't have a TV" crowd, and I believe that theories of economics have affected the masses by way of the television.

Out of interest, do you watch TV/Movies anyway? I didn't have a TV for most of my adult life - it was only when I moved in with my girlfriend (who is now my wife), that there ended up being one in the house. I do however have a fairly large collection of DVDs and TV/Movie/Documentary files on my computer.

From my point of view at least, I get the 'good' from your post, with less (but admittedly not "no") exposure to the 'bad' and the 'ugly'.

Re:The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992495)

Yeah, I'm one of those Luddites that doesn't own a TV. I'm in my mid-50's; I grew up with TV. I watched Ed Sullivan, the first moon landing, Walter Cronkite, all of that. Now. I despise the corporate television business. The business is dying, and it's nobody's fault but their own. Instead of keeping the audience fascinated, they foisted reality TV upon them. Good riddance.

Re:The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993451)

If you think that "increased exposure to opinions that may not be of interest" is a bad thing for a person something is horribly wrong with the world.

Things that T.V. has taught me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991953)

All white people are evil racists fags who beat up black people for sheer spite.
Everyone in the 'south' is a racist homophobe.
The only people actually worth something are those from the East Coast or California. Everyone else in the USA is retarded and useless.
The USA is the bestest country in the whole world. Every other country is backward, kind of like those folks who don't live on the east coast or California.
Lawyers are great people who are always out to help humanity out.

Fun Fact! Farsworth (the inventor of the idiot box) was deeply upset with the affect that it was having on the populous, and regretted inventing it. That was untill the moon landings were televised, and he agreed that TV was good for something.

But thanks to T.V. We won't likely be going back to the moon anytime soon. See T.V. has taught generations of kids that science is for faggots, and that the only thing that matters is popularity and good looks.

There is a inverse coorelation between USian relevance and the popularity of T.V.

Now I am going back to find out what Justin Beiber is doing on T.V. I luv Justin.. He is sooo talented.

(said by an bald middle aged white male)

Nice Articles (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991975)

Nice Articles
beauty tips [slashdot.org]

Frist Psot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43991993)

First Vast Wasteland.

I remember when... (5, Insightful)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | about a year ago | (#43992001)

I'm probably one of the older readers/posters here and I'll tell you why I hate TV.

Back when I was a kid, there was no TV.

People and communities were far different.

Everyone knew their neighbours and interacted with them on a daily basis.

We'd have card or board-game evenings on a Tuesday night, whereupon most everyone in the street would roll up at someone's house and enjoy a very social time together, enjoying each other's company and having fun. We kids would play out in the yard (in summer) or inside (in winter), sharing our comics and also playing games.

When Mrs Brown 5 doors down was ill, someone would go mow her lawns every weekend and the women would take turns making sure she had a nutritious meal three times a day.

Most Saturday nights the guy who lived next to us would get out his 16mm film projector and a movie would be screened on his garage door. The adults would all sit around watching and drinking beer -- while we kids also watched or just went and played ball in the yard out back.

Because of this tight bonding between neighbors, those were days when you could leave your car parked in the driveway (or on the road outside your house) with the keys in it and when folk went on vacation, they never bothered to lock their doors -- otherwise the people next door couldn't get in to water the plants while you were away.

Perhaps my glasses of retrospect are rose-tinted, but they were wonderful, carefree, crime-free days where I lived.

Then TV came along.

Once everyone had their own set, people no longer got together and socialised of an evening. Instead, they stayed in their own houses and after a few years (as some folk sold up and others moved in), it quickly became apparent that we didn't even know some of those who lived in the street.

A little later, after a few car-thefts and burglaries, people started locking their cars and doors.

You see, once the fabric of the community was torn by the isolating effect of television, most folk no longer had the close bond that once existed with the others in their neighborhood -- in fact people became anonymous. Once folk are anonymous their inhibitions tend to drop and they're far more likely to submit to temptation (such as theft or other crimes). Just look at how differently many people behave when they're on vacation in a different part of the country and you'll see the proof of that. If the people around you know who you are you tend to be far more conservative and circumspect in your behavior. Go somewhere where nobody knows you and it's easier to behave badly.

Anyway, TV has now become opiate of the masses. Far too many people spend a huge percentage of their life passively sitting in front of the box, soaking up everything that's thrown at them.

If you'd tried to describe why the Kardashians would be celebrities back when I was a kid, people would simply not understand -- and I have to admit, I still don't get it.

The best thing we could do for any nation is to switch off TV and show people that "reality" is a much better option than "reality TV".

Hell, imagine how much better off we'd all be if we spent an hour less each day watching TV and instead, used that time to improve our education, earn a little extra money -- or just spend quality time with our friends and families.

I doubt very much whether *anyone's* last words will ever be "Darn, I wish I'd spent more time watching TV".

But hey, I'm old enough to know I'm wrong more often than I'm right -- so feel free to ignore this rant :-)

Re:I remember when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992047)

Yeh, yeh, it was a good rant, it's ok!

Re:I remember when... (4, Interesting)

Jiro (131519) | about a year ago | (#43992095)

Go somewhere where nobody knows you and it's easier to behave badly.

When your neighbors know all about you and their attitudes enforce your behavior, that doesn't just mean it's hard to get away with robbing someone's house. It also means it's hard to be gay, or atheist, or a geek, or a woman who doesn't think that preparing nutritious meals is her job. or anything else nonconformist.

I doubt very much whether *anyone's* last words will ever be "Darn, I wish I'd spent more time watching TV".

People sometimes wish they had enjoyed more of the pleasures of life, which can certainly include watching more TV even if watching more TV isn't the whole list.

Re:I remember when... (2)

Push Latency (930039) | about a year ago | (#43992169)

I tend to disagree. Because of TV-inspired segregated identity clustering, we've removed the non from "non-conformist". As a non-conformist, I long for a time when I could... non-conform. I never had a hard time being non-conformist, though one had to be tactful, polite, and civil about it.

And seriously, if you hear yourself on your deathbed saying you wish you had watched more TV, my sense is that many of the better aspects of existence have passed you by.

Re:I remember when... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993435)

That's like arguing against curing cancer because it'd get rid of the idea of a cancer survivor. When everyone's identity has a space, conformism is on the way out.

If I die without watching White Tulip again I'll be deeply disappointed. Peter Weller and John Noble at the same time!

Re:I remember when... (1)

number11 (129686) | about a year ago | (#43992329)

When your neighbors know all about you and their attitudes enforce your behavior, that doesn't just mean it's hard to get away with robbing someone's house. It also means it's hard to be gay, or atheist, or a geek, or a woman who doesn't think that preparing nutritious meals is her job. or anything else nonconformist.

Yeah, there was some of that too. But I remember a school janitor who was a Communist who'd get onto call-in radio shows (this in the early '60s), and (at least in my parents' circles) that got reactions of "oh, that's just so-and-so, he's ok outside of that".

I dunno. In some ways people then (or maybe it's rural people, of which I was then but no longer am) were less accepting of differences, but more willing to make exceptions. Nowadays, in the city, I just don't associate with the evildoers.

Re:I remember when... (4, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#43992117)

While this is a really nice story, and I like a lot about it, I also have heard conflicting stories from parents and grandparents about people in the age of radio who always "had to listen to their show" and the neighbor guy who was holed up every evening "listening to the game" (generally baseball).

Obviously there were a lot of social changes that played into the trends you describe, and television played a role. But the story you tell is oversimplified... when I grew up (in the era of tv), for example, I didn't watch tv every night -- and when I did, it was more likely to be at a neighbors' house while hanging out and socializing. I'm not saying I had the most common experience, but it was possible to sit at home and be antisocial while listening to the radio before tv, just as it was possible to treat communal tv watching as another social activity (like going to the movies).

There's also lots of other stuff to blame for the cultural trends you mention other than tv. (I say this as someone who rarely watches it these days.)

Re:I remember when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992121)

"Anyway, TV has now become opiate of the masses. Far too many people spend a huge percentage of their life passively sitting in front of the box, soaking up everything that's thrown at them."

    Just replace "TV" with any computerized box(laptop, ipad, etc) viewing slashdot, youtube, etc, and you realize nothing has changed.

Re:I remember when... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43992201)

Actually, we had a TV growing up but we still had that environment. You knew the neighbors, you played boardgames, etc. Only three channels though, that meant that you would run out of stuff you wanted to watch very fast.

On the other hand, we actually had parents, which meant that even if we had 10,000 channels, you were never going to become couch potatoes because it wouldn't have been allowed. Didn't matter if my favorite program was on, if it was time to go mow the neighbor's lawn then I had to go do it.

Re:I remember when... (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43993837)

I think it has more to do with employment than TV. Communities existed because there was time to be in a community. One person in the household was generally home, or at most running errands within the community. There's no need to go back to the old sexism since it hardly matters which person is home or even if they alternate, so long as someone is and they're not too busy telecommuting to talk or to do something about the eyesore on the corner or plan for the block party.

People veg in front of the TV because it's hard to want to do much else after a full day of work plus whatever actually HAS to get done around the house.

Re:I remember when... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#43992269)

If you'd tried to describe why the Kardashians would be celebrities back when I was a kid, people would simply not understand -- and I have to admit, I still don't get it.

You must have been pretty isolated as a kid - and somehow managed to remain ignorant your whole life. (Or you've got a seriously thick pair of rose colored glasses and a selective memory editor that's morphed your past into a lost golden age.) Any follower of celebrity culture from any era would instantly grok why the Kardashians are celebrities. Scandals, and people hooking onto the rich and famous to advance themselves, and fame for being outrageous, etc... etc... are as old as the hills and have been grist for the media's mill and objects of popular following since mass media was born in the 1800's.

Re:I remember when... (1)

balise (82851) | about a year ago | (#43992285)

I'm as old as this guy I'm sure. And he's right but the thing isn't the TV, it's the economy, and the way people move in, and geography, and every other damn thing. Actually, although he elects to, there is NO possibility of avoiding the advance of technology. Other hand, we're all going to broil to death unless we start facing up to things as connected adults.

Re: I remember when... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992317)

Truly sounds like a nice time but I don't know if you can blame TV for all that. For instance, the birth of cities meant there were a lot more strangers you had to deal with on a regular basis, resulting in less intimate relationships with one another.

Re:I remember when... (4, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#43992423)

So you had a very localized, very homogenous culture with little or no outside influences. I'm betting everyone in that neighborhood voted the same way, were suspicious of and openly hostile to new and different ways of thinking/living and 25% of the kids couldn't wait to get out of the small minded hellhole they lived in.

We tend to recall our childhood environment through the lens of a blissfully ignorant child's point of view. There was likely domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism, teen pregnancy and a variety of other social problems just on the other side of those "open doors" that was never talked about in front of the kids.

Re:I remember when... (1, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#43993883)

So, you just made some shit up and tried to pin it on him? And that got +4 Interesting? WTF we are just making shit up now? It is depressing how many people simply refuse to believe that there might be nice places in the world where live nice people. They just can't get the idea through their minds - everybody in the world must be just like them, there cannot possibly be any diversity.

Re:I remember when... (2)

jader3rd (2222716) | about a year ago | (#43992525)

I don't think that the breakdown of the neighborhood social structure is due to TV, I think it's due to Air Conditioning. With no AC you have to go outside on a regular basis; with AC you don't.

Re:I remember when... (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#43992555)

You forgot the most important part: get off my lawn! ;)

Re:I remember when... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992775)

You cannot really blame television solely for the decay in the fabric of society. Back before television, people rarely moved once they had settled down. They worked at the same company/factory/etc for all of their lives. They ran into their neighbours when they went shopping, went to the dentist, went to the hospital, went to the bar.

These days, people rarely work at the same place for more then two years or so. They often move within a few years rather then settling in to one house. Society teaches us that the more you have, the better you are and you should under no circumstances think that you have enough. Greed is god. If you do not conform then you will be treated as a pariah.

Believe it or not, there is still towns and villages where everyone knows everyone. Where the crime rate is dependant on whether some random criminally minded person comes through town. Where if you slept with the neighbour's wife, he will find out about it down at the local pub. Where Daisy the hairdresser knows more about your sexlife then you do...

Re:I remember when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992809)

I am not old enough to remember there being *no* TV, but I have seen the changes you describe accelerate greatly in my lifetime, and believe also that they are related to TV.

I have lived parts of my life with too much TV, and parts of it with no TV (by choice).

I have also worked in the business off and on.

I enjoyed reading your opinion, and wish I could hear more.

Anonymous Coward

PS ditto re: Kardashians, Hiltons, etc.

Re:I remember when... (1)

m.alessandrini (1587467) | about a year ago | (#43992937)

My God, I hope you haven't discovered Internet yet! Just kidding, sorry, I'm not as old as you, but maybe like all tools the TV has caused problem when abused, while it also had good effects on many aspects of society.

Re:I remember when... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993415)

Back when there were no card- or board-game nights ("free time" is a Victorian construct) people got a lot more done and there was less crime, too.

Re:I remember when... (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43993847)

Free time is only a Victorian concept because before that there was enough of it that it didn't need a special name or attention paid to it.

Re:I remember when... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#43993957)

I largely agree with you, and I have both good and bad news:

Good - TV is generally, I believe, killing itself off. The bait/hook ratio (programming/commercials) is far, far too small, and the bait itself (the shows) are mostly vapid, brainless programming equivalent to "Ow My Balls!". It's hard to watch normal broadcast TV without constantly being cognizant that it really IS a visually-delivered mood-altering drug in just about every way.

Bad - I've long thought that it would be wonderful to have TV shut down for a year...unfortunately today I'm not sure most people would notice. I'm one of those 'annoying' guys that 'doesn't watch TV' but I confess that I spend a good hour or two a day on Netflix watching movies, or playing Path of Exile, or whatever. As much as I might rationalize that "this is not as bad as TV", in most of the senses you mention above and in the damage to the body cultural, it's just the same. (Worse, if you extrapolate my ability to filter my outside stimuli to "only the news I want to believe" and interacting only with "people that agree with me" - hell, that's probably actively CORROSIVE to the demos generally.) The internet with it's combination of stimulation, interactivity AND infinite variety has far more potential than TV to soak up people's lives. TV could vanish tomorrow and, aside from Netflix no longer occasionally getting new seasons of "Pretty Little Liars" or "Gossip Girls", I'm not sure many people would care after the first couple of weeks.

Re:I remember when... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43993965)

Maybe you were lucky, but most places that world never existed.

For example the London Blitz is often held up as a golden time when Londoners came together to support each other and put two fingers up to Mr. Hitler. Actually crime was rampant and they had to close bomb shelters during the day because kids vandalized them. Looting of bombed homes was common, and organized crime thrived.

John Logie Baird? BBC? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992043)

An artilce about the development of television broadcasting that doesn't mention either of these?

Re:John Logie Baird? BBC? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43992735)

Zworykin and filling patents for good US brands is all the history you need to know.

Re:John Logie Baird? BBC? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43993873)

Just reading his WW2 history at http://www.bairdtelevision.com/war.html [bairdtelevision.com]
http://www.bairdtelevision.com/colour.html [bairdtelevision.com]
first colour cathode ray tube
A form of 3-D television, "the Phantoscope"
High speed transmission of images (fast facsimile) "A whole newspaper could be transmitted about the world in a matter of seconds" later seen in the USA without making any mention of Baird.

Stop watching TV (0)

xiando (770382) | about a year ago | (#43992063)

We've got the Internet, so why dumb yourself down by passivly staring at a propaganda box? They do call it "TV programs" as in "programming" (mind control). I haven't had a TV for about 12 years and I see a clear colleration between how much people watch TV and how much they know about what is really going on in the world around them. There also seems to be a colleration between the amount of time spent in front of a TV and the ability to think clearly and critically. Seriously, get rid of your TV if you have one, you'll feel more clear-minded just after a few months.

Re:Stop watching TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992143)

"We've got the Internet,"

      And with youtube, slashdot, etc what's the difference with TV again?
Different media, same content, and people still staring at a box.

Re:Stop watching TV (1)

atom1c (2868995) | about a year ago | (#43992167)

We've got the Internet, so why dumb yourself down by passivly staring at ...

You almost had a valid point, except that the effects of the Internet are the same as that of a Television. Future generations of smart televisions (like coupling an Xbox One w/ Kinect into a TV set) will allow you to yell at the screen, for your rants to get transcribed in real-time and automatically added to the multimedia transcript so various users can both experience the program AND the reactions as they happened. That's as close to Reality TV as we'll ever get -- a replay of a single Live moment of television but syndicated, translated, and repeated 5 times a day on show-exclusive cable networks... accessible on any device on-demand.

As illustrated above, we're simply posting on a designated website instead of conversing through TV. Same shit, different technology mix.

Re:Stop watching TV (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43992875)

We've got the Internet, so why dumb yourself down by passivly staring at ...

Future generations of smart televisions (like coupling an Xbox One w/ Kinect into a TV set) will allow you to yell at the screen, for your rants to get transcribed in real-time and automatically added to the multimedia transcript so various users can...etc

You forgot (or omit) mentioning NSA as an entity that will be enjoying your reactions...
U still want to do anything else but to zone-out in front of your TV?

Re:Stop watching TV (1)

Macgrrl (762836) | about a year ago | (#43992687)

Correlation does not imply causation.

There are plenty of informed people who watch some degree of TV, just as there are plenty of internet junkies who are clueless about pretty much everything.

There are people who rely on traditional media such as print who sit at either end of the spectrum.

It's what you watch on TV that makes a bigger difference; are you watching something informative which challenges your preconceived ideas or zoned out in front of Keeping up with the Kardashians (which still makes me think of Star Trek).

TV and Movies are the Shakespeare of our age, and there are some masterful works out there to be enjoyed. Enjoy a bit of visual literature while you can.

Re:Stop watching TV (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993429)

You shouldn't use a computer, they call it "computer programming" as in "programming" (mind control). (Not that I disagree with the point that today's TV is about as enlightening as the red top newspapers, but talk about a dodgy rationale.)

Re:Stop watching TV (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#43993863)

yes, lolcats and 4chan are ever so much moar intellectually stimulating and spiritually uplifting.

Television Importance Fading (5, Insightful)

GoodnaGuy (1861652) | about a year ago | (#43992181)

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of televsion and even look forward to the shows. Nowadays I dont even have a television, I get all my information from the Web. Television is no longer informative, watch a documentary and you'll spend an hour watching repeated film clips and commentary interspersed with maybe 20 minutes of adverts. Much more efficient reading articles on the web for what you are interested in. Television is just light entertainment. Also with the news, each countries news agencies have their own narrow agendas so you never really get the full picture of world events. Much better to visit online news sites of different countries and political views. Then you'll understand much better how things came to be the way they are.

Re:Television Importance Fading (1)

ColaMan (37550) | about a year ago | (#43992723)

watch a documentary and you'll spend an hour watching repeated film clips
Congratulations! You are not the target audience for these alleged 'documentaries'.
Go watch a documentary produced by somebody who doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator instead.
(Hint: Their channel lineup will not contain words like "turbo" , or "extreme")

Re:Television Importance Fading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43993039)

or the discovery word

Re:Television Importance Fading (1)

Lotana (842533) | about a year ago | (#43993183)

Which is so damn sad. As a kid I used to love Discovery channel. Now it is just a shadow of its former self.

I believe public television has been ruined by advertisers. Advertising was always part of the business, but it just became too much. Even the web is not immune.

Re:Television Importance Fading (1)

GoodnaGuy (1861652) | about a year ago | (#43993371)

Ads are the main reason I cant watch TV. Over here (Australia) some channels have as much as a quarter of their air time dedicated to adverts. I timed it once, 7 1/2 minute of programs to 2 1/2 minutes of ads. If you imagine the average person spending an hour a day watching TV, thats 1/4 an hour a day of ads or about 2 1/2 days a year. I visited France a few years back and they have a much better system. They have adverts, but they are only placed between the programs.

Re:Television Importance Fading (1)

ColaMan (37550) | about a year ago | (#43993515)

At least SBS tried to cling to the 'ads only between shows', but it's certainly pretty dismal. My old mythtv box used to do a pretty good job of marking ads and auto-skipping during playback, but I pity the poor sod that doesn't have a DVR these days.

(OT: GoodnaGuy, eh? My mother grew up in Goodna, haven't been there in years...)

Re:Television Importance Fading (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43993417)

American television is no longer informative. The high-quality overseas news agencies and documentary shows you read online are, to me, domestic ones broadcast nightly.

I mean, I channel surfed into a first-rate Feynmann doc the other night at the height of prime-time.

No soup for you! (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#43992209)

NEXT!

NBC / comcast has killed a lot of good shows at le (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43992231)

NBC / comcast has killed a lot of good shows at least they try to get sports right but they do press the non Comcast systems.

Reduce watching TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992255)

Watching TV is not so bad, but it should not spent time watching unnecessary programs. since we get many effective information on TV,so it'd also watch TV without unnecessary and avoid harmful programs.

TV Ended in 2050 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992295)

Pretty sure Star Trek: TNG called it:

"Television was a medium that declined by the mid-21st century"

From "the Neutral Zone," season 1 ep. 26

Re:TV Ended in 2050 (2)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about a year ago | (#43992767)

"Television was a medium that declined by the mid-21st century"

Ah, so that explains "Enterprise": they were working to make the prediction come true.

Another No TV Family.. (2)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about a year ago | (#43992319)

We have not had a TV set for about 4 years now. We do watch some online stuff occasionally. Personally, I simply got tired of the never-ending ads. For me, there is no show worth that ceaseless drone of buy shit. Buy shit so people will like you, buy shit so you can get in some girls pants, buy shit so you can be cool.. on and on and on...and then there is the "news" which is the all propaganda network turning our collective minds into jello. What a joy it is to honestly say.. why no.. I didnt see one damn political ad, havent heard FOX or MSNBC or CNN for 4 years and I am that much better off for not getting my dose of daily indoctrination. Its not entertainment, its a mind-rape.

Re:Another No TV Family.. (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#43992489)

That's what DVRs are for and now Netflix/AppleTV/Roku. I and my family treat it as entertainment and edutainment. There are no commercials just content. It's about being inspired by a story, by a character, by the dialogue and the artistry. When the kids are older we'll go to more live events - plays, concerts, etc but there's no better place to enjoy long form storytelling than your own home with your family or friends. It's a meal and a topic of conversation after, "what did you think of the way the protagonist was portrayed? Why did the director choose that location for that piece of dialogue?"

Seems that many people don't know how to enjoy and appreciate the works of art and culture available. Kind of sad really.

Re:Another No TV Family.. (2)

Macgrrl (762836) | about a year ago | (#43992697)

We haven't watched broadcast TV in a decade or so, about the only time we see adverts is when we specifically watch one someone linked to us on YouTube for a laugh.

We have a wall of DVD and a NAS full of digital media. I prefer to watch TV and Movie on my own terms rather than when it suits some network scheduler, particularly given they tend to screw over they types of shows I prefer to watch (I'm looking at you Firefly).

LaserDisc "brief"? (2)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year ago | (#43992425)

FTFA:

LaserDisc had its brief moment in the sun

Brief? LaserDisc was available for almost as long as VHS, having come out in 1978 [blam1.com] compared to VHS's 1976. DVD killed them both circa 2000. Coupled with a $10,000 Kloss projection TV [hometheater.com] , LaserDisc ushered in "home theater" 20 years before DVD made the term popular. (In fact, LaserDisc had been out for so long, the release of DVD caused a collective groan due to the market confusion it created over whether its 480p was "hi-def" and the delay in HDTV standard that had been in the works since the 80's.)

Re:LaserDisc "brief"? (3, Interesting)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#43992715)

the release of DVD caused a collective groan due to the market confusion it created over whether its 480p was "hi-def" and the delay in HDTV standard that had been in the works since the 80's.

I don't think anyone called 480p "hi-def" (it is technically EDTV). Also, although the Japanese had MUSE/Hi-Vision and the Europeans had HD-MAC back in the 80's, they were both mostly analog HD broadcast systems that never really had a robust consumer media component (I doubt there were more than a hand-full of MUSE encoded HD laserdiscs titles...)

The MPEG standards track (that eventually became the digital HDTV standards) was "in-the-works" in the mid 90's (not the 80's). The MPEG-2 work originally targeted SD and was rushed by Hughes (for satellite tv) and the DVD folks to completion in 1996. Nobody was delaying anything in the standardization meetings as Hughes was clamoring to have the systems layered nailed down before they launched their direct broadcast satellites and the DVD folks wanted to launch products as soon as they could. For example, all the video "scalability" cruft that nobody uses in MPEG-2 were simply a concession to a few hold-outs to get the standard approved ASAP.

There was for a short time, a "MPEG-3" standard proposed targeting for HD after the MPEG-2 work was done, but none of the proposals were significantly better than MPEG-2 coding at HD resolution, so ***rather than delay*** digital HDTV rollout to develop something better, the MPEG-3 standardization effort was simply cancelled and the first digital HD standards were MPEG-2 based (both terrestrial and satellite).

Of course, eventually, the MPEG-4-AVC (aka H.264) was eventually developed (leveraging many of the tricks used by the video conferencing standards 'churn' creating an very complicated standard) and became the current defacto standard for HDTV (except for US terrestrial broadcast which is still MPEG-2 from the 90's)...

Re:LaserDisc "brief"? (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a year ago | (#43993931)

The MPEG standards track (that eventually became the digital HDTV standards) was "in-the-works" in the mid 90's (not the 80's).

DIgital or no, the sense in the 80's was that HDTV was "just around the corner". On CompuServe's Consumer Electronics Forum (CEFORUM), we were all agonizing over whether to buy new televisions, or wait for the HDTV's to come out. The forum moderator, Marc Weilage, chided us that HDTV would not be able available in the next 10 years, although I doubt even he thought it would take 20 years. Although CEFORUM archives are not available, a 1989 UseNet post [google.com] shows one of the hot topics of the day in HDTV standards definition: square pixels (to satisfy computer users) vs. rectangular pixels (to satisfy broadcasters, presumably for backward compatibility, interlace, and bandwidth issues).

The 1998 alt.video.dvd FAQ [google.com] thought it necessary to include the question, "Will DVD support Digital TV (HDTV)?" Some people thought that by buying a DVD player, they were preparing for the HDTV future.

10% of Slashdot is just links to Ars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992569)

Is it just me, or is there a link created here for just about every story that Ars Technica posts?

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43992855)

Well I probably looked more inside one that at one.

FriSt Psot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43993219)

minutes 8ow while during play, this am protesting this exploitation, DOG THAT IT IS. IT = 36400 FreeBSD core team. They new core is going IS DYING LIKE THE The project to survival prospects of *BSD asswipes don't be afraid whether to repeat be in a scene and conversations where Many of us are God, let's fucking 3 simple steps! appeared...saying other members in Creek, abysmal play parties the every day...Like

The point is this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43993329)

I'll have you know that I don't watch or even own a television.

Recommended Reading (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#43993335)

I suggest reading a book from the 70s by ex-MadMan Jerry Mander called "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" if you can find it.

Good stuff.

Pillar of the earth? Or fifth column? (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | about a year ago | (#43993703)

... TV has taken over social interaction. Inside and outside the family. Time was when we interacted and learnt social mores and life skills from entities who could respond to us. TV cannot. While I am sure Ralph Nader and similar outliers exist, TV has become what human nature and the bandwidth/cable access monopolies always destined it to be... manipulative and shallow programming, beholden to advertising interests engorged by the unnatural hold it has over our life.

Bread and circuses. We got one, one more to go...

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