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I don't want to be a Negative Nellie, but I'm worried. And I think you should be too. We need to call our congress people, send email to our senators, pound the podium to try to get things right.


The standards for digital television (cable, recorders, satellite, HD-DVD and so on) are now being decided. And, to me, it looks like those of us who want wide-screen, high definition television could easily lose out. Buena Vista (Disney) has said that they will be releasing future movies in "full-screen" (not widescreen) on a case-by-case basis. The "case" is that very few of us have widescreen!

Why? Because money drives these things (we've had a really bad TV standard since 1953 because of money issues--we could have gotten better resolution, etc. in the past 50 years, but nobody would pay for it).

Now they are talking about using DVD-quality "HDTV" and high-compression, and lossy sound, and, to sum it up, lowest common denominator television standards for the future. Whatever they can get away with in order to pump up the profits for next quarter. That's how many of these people think, and how they make decisions. I know, I was among them for a decade.


The average person buys hard, orange tomatoes and is willing to settle for them, simply because they are cheap and available everywhere. The market for ripe, tasty, quality tomatoes is very small. Everyone likes them, but few people are willing to demand them, or to seek them out.

Same thing, alas, for quality TV. Why do you think that there are far more pathetic, small-screen cineplexes these days than movie theaters with giant screens? Because Joe Average and his wife Sandy Head are quite willing to watch those screens while eating their coconut-oil soaked popcorn, that's why.


So, I hate it, but bandwidth is now being carved up for the next 50 years' standards, and it's probably going to suck just like it has for the past 50 years.

Please prove me wrong. Point in case: there are two other adults in my house and both of them simply don't care if they are watching a movie on grainy, dropout, smeared old VHS tapes, on cable, on DVD, or on our HDTV feed. They just don't spend any time noticing the surface (as I do, as you do). They quickly get into the story of a movie, the suspense...and they are carried away into the drama just as much as if they were reading a comic book. A comic book is a very crude medium relative to HDTV--but to most people the medium is not the issue! Stories quickly hypnotize most people--and they rapidly fly through the medium and stay buried in the message during the entire show.

If they needed the "movie quality image" experience, they would drive down to the movie theater more often. But they usually don't. They'll sit for hours watching bad cable, or worse VHS tapes...very happily.

I fear that it's only us rare, relatively few folks who really care, or even notice the difference between DVDs and HDTV. Therefore, I'm afraid that in the future there will be far more hard, nasty orange tomatoes for sale in the home television pipeline than good stuff. If any good stuff is available at all. Remember that the best images we had for many years were S-VHS and laserdisc (hardly much better than VHS, truth be told).
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