TV or not TV


     Television prices have come down, but the amount of intelligence it takes to operate a Smart TV has skyrocketed. Technology should simplify life. New-fangled television technology has made my life more complicated. 

     I wanted to surprise my wife with an early birthday present – a new television for the downstairs bedroom. The model we had was working fine, but the screen size was small. The unit was too far away on a bureau across the room. Watching television in bed was impossible to enjoy. The tiny picture on our current television made my cell phone screen feel like an iMax theater experience.

     I began pricing new televisions, hoping to get a good deal. I found what I thought was a perfect item at a local big-box store that will remain nameless in case the company is a newspaper sponsor. 

     I brought the television home, opened the box, looked through the manual, attached the feet and plugged it in. Easy peasey. I was on my way to a pleasant viewing experience (or so I thought).

     After painstakingly typing in the long, confusing password for my household wi-fi account, the “Smart” TV began to automatically set itself up. It downloaded whatever updates it needed from the internet. It even shut down and restarted on its own. The only glitch – I couldn’t watch anything through my DVR/Cable box. This was a deal breaker. I can’t live without an on-screen channel guide to endlessly scroll through and DVR full of shows I’ll never watch. At the bottom of the instruction manual, there was a tiny line of 6 point text: “Television will not work with cable set top box”.

     Why wasn’t this warning on the outside of the box instead of all the verbiage telling me I’d have over 5,000 channels and movies galore. To use this television I had to download an application for my phone before I could watch anything. There was also a monthly fee involved. I wanted to throw the television away just like I did with the $138 bucks I spent on it. After twenty minutes of disassembling its feet and placing everything back in the original box, I grabbed my receipt and drove back to the store to hopefully find a compatible model for a comparable price.

     After spending twenty minutes in the store’s  customer service line to return my purchase, I ventured back to the shelves to check out alternatives. I didn’t want to purchase a non-cable box compatible model so this time I thought I’d ask for help from a store associate. Finding someone to answer questions in a department store is no easy task these days. I ambushed a blue-vest as he turned a corner in aisle 12.

     “Can someone from the television department answer a question for me?” I asked politely.

     The clerk stared at the huge array of big-screen televisions lining the back wall of the store.

     “We don’t have a television department,” said the obviously overworked employee.

     I was dumbfounded. Are they still called televisions these days? I guess I’m out of the loop. I told Mr. Blue Vest I wanted to purchase a television set compatible with a cable box.

     “Ohh,” the worker said. “Yeah, you’re going to have to do some research on that.”

     “Really?” Thank you for your help.” I realized I was on my own.

     I Googled some info on my phone without success, although I found a website that would answer technical questions for $5 a pop if I entered my credit card information. No thanks.

     I tossed a different television model in my shopping cart and crossed my fingers. I was willing to take my chances one more time. Worst case scenario I’d be back at the store returning another television, which is apparently easier for the company to deal with rather than hiring employees who can answer questions from customers.

     At home, I hooked up my new purchase with only minor confusion. There was no instruction book this time. Set-up is done on-screen with the remote control (which I had to look-up online to figure out how to open the back of the remote to install the batteries, not a good sign). Once I got to the menu screen on the television, I by-passed anything web or internet related. I connected the HDMI cable to the proper input, and lo and behold, I had a picture on the screen. I just want to watch Family Feud. I don’t need Apple TV, Roku, Firestick, Netflix or YouTube. 

     I understand television technology has morphed into something different to keep up with changing times. Televisions are newer and smarter, making me feel older and dumber. Maybe I should stick to reading books while I still know how to open them.

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