Television: It Really Did Change Everything
We’ve talked before about the way certain tech gadgets, like mobile phones, have revolutionized the way we go about our daily lives. Today we’re going to talk about something that was and, in many respects still is, truly revolutionary: television.
While we still sometimes look at our mobile devices and feel a sense of awe, most of us completely take television for granted. This is because there are so few people alive today who even remember what life was like before it existed. Sure there are a few hipsters out there who will brag that “I don’t even own one of those,” but it is extremely rare to find someone who does not enjoy television (and everything it has to offer) in some form or another.
Heck, even the physical set itself has become a robust computing and connection making machine!
How has television changed the way we live? Let’s look at a few examples.
Okay, yes, it’s easy to bag on the anchors of the 24/7 news networks here in the US. Beholden primarily to share holders, networks like CNN often miss larger stories (or the many nuances contained within them) in favor of the less important stories that will help sell stuff their sponsors produce. We joke that, these days, we get our news from Twitter. Even so, when a story breaks on Twitter, what do you do? You turn on one of those 24/7 news networks to see what’s up. And even if you don’t, remember: the idea of 24/7 news and current events coverage didn’t start with newspapers as those were published maybe only twice a day. It started with television.
This one is pretty much a gimme. Television completely changed the way we think about visual story telling. Before serialized shows came to air, if you wanted to “see” a story, you went to the movies or the theatre. Stories were told in two hour blocks. Books could give you some more insight into what happened to a certain character but long-form visual story telling simply wasn’t an option until television shows were invented. Television series offer a way to tell a character’s story with more depth and attention than movies or plays offer and they are better at bringing written stories to life than either film or plays.
Once upon a time in a land far far away, if you wanted to play a video game you had to leave your house. Today, you fire up your console of choice and boom! You’re playing. Thanks to the advanced graphics offered by both television technology and console technology, your games look more realistic and flow smoother than anything you’ll find in an arcade these days. Moreover, a lot of games have taken to copying television’s episodic plot structure to increase game playing satisfaction. Nobody who forks over $60 for a game is going to be satisfied with two hours of play time. No, they want at least 20 hours if not more. So, in that respect, even though games are their own medium, their primary influence is television and not movies or books.
Today you can easily hook your computer up to your television set and turn it into an ad hoc monitor and sound system for what you’re doing online. Apple TV, Chromecast, etc–all act as bridges between your computer and the set. Some people even hook up actual computers directly to the television’s port, without using a bridging device. This way people who may not want to pay for, say, a network or cable subscription package can still watch whatever streaming media or downloaded media they have without having to sit at a computer desk all day. Many internet providers also provide access to basic network coverage through their own portals, allowing people to still watch events and even some shows live via their web connections.
As television has become more ubiquitous, the prices for them has come down. Yes, there was a spike as everyone switched from tube to flatscreen television sets, but things have evened out and, more importantly, television providers are offering their services at more and more affordable prices every day. Even people in rural areas can get access to great packages thanks to satellite networking. For example, DIRECTV in Florida offers access to residents in towns like Cocoa, which has less than twenty thousand people.
Today it is stranger and more out of touch not to have a television than it is to have two or three in your home. What started out as a privilege has now become an integral part of the way we connect and relate to one another–much like our mobile phones and other devices will be soon.