Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Big screen thinking

Donald Clark's post about big screen TVs jumped out at me this morning, because I've been thinking and talking about big screens lately. Not in relation to my work, but for home.

We're in the process of buying a new house - much bigger (but ironically, not much more expensive), with a family room. This is something we have long wanted to have.

When we have guests over, especially when the guests have kids, the adults always wind up sitting at the dining table and chatting, while the kids watch a DVD or play games on the TV in the lounge. This has been the status quo for many years.

In our current house, this is a problem, because the whole downstairs area is one big, split-level, open plan living space: kitchen, lounge and dining area. It looks very elegant, but it's not very practical.

The kids turn the volume up on the TV so that they can hear it over our conversation. We speak louder. The kids turn the TV up. We ask them to turn it down. They ask us to "turn it down".

In the new house (if we actually get it - buying property in the UK is fraught with obstacles), the TV will go into the large loft room, which will serve as the family room. In due course, we will buy another TV for the lounge.

But I have always been bothered by the blankness of an inactive TV screen. This is probably due to my grandmother, who compared a TV to a dead fish's eye. Since TV only arrived in South Africa in the mid 70's, and they resisted getting one for some time after that, my grandparents were fairly advanced in years by the time a rather large TV set took up residence in their lounge. And it was hardly ever switched on, since they preferred the genteel art of conversation after dinner. Finding the "dead" look of the inactive screen too disturbing, my gran used to cover the set with a cloth when it was not in use.

As TVs have taken an ever more dominant place in the home, with furniture usually being arranged around the focal point of the TV set, I began to feel that the TV should "earn its keep" when not in use.

When the TV screen became flat and wall-mountable, I began to wish that it could double as a picture, especially as the screens became larger. Our current TV is only a 32", but I have long wished that, when no-one was watching TV (or playing Xbox 360 games), we could have a rolling slideshow of family portraits or beautiful scenic photographs. I know that I could achieve this by connected the TV up to my laptop. But the trouble is, I am usually using my laptop - especially at the times when the TV is off, and it strikes me as overkill.

It seems I might soon get my wish, as I see the market generating a few technologies that seem to be leading in that direction:

  • Animated advertisements - there have always been a series of A4-ish sized advertisments beside the escalators serving the London Underground. Recently, these have been replaced with LCD (I think) screens showing animated advertisments, sequenced to keep pace with movement of the escalator, so that the "story" flips from screen to screen as you travel up or down. They have also recently introduced enormous curved screens that take up wall space within the tube tunnel itself, visible to passengers waiting on the platform.
  • Digital photo frames. There is now a selection of these frames available from many stores. You just bung in your memory card and you're away. As with mp3 players, the capacity varies enormously, and as with digital cameras, there is a range of resolutions available. Both of these factors influence price. Being the sort of person who keeps family photos on my desk (and has a rolling slideshow of family photos as the screensaver on my laptop), I quite fancied one of these, but they are rather small. I think the biggest I've seen was 8".
So now I'm just waiting for someone to develop whatever it is that drives the photo frame in a little matchbox sized thing that you connect to your TV... once you've programmed it from your computer, of course! Perhaps, by the time I come to buy my 46" screen to mount on the lounge wall, this technology will automatically be included.

Mind you - it wouldn't be very green, would it?

1 comment:

Mark Berthelemy said...

"Mind you - it wouldn't be very green, would it?"

Exactly what I was thinking!