On the most recent episode of The Sopranos, Tony arrives home just in time to see Carmela heave his golf clubs onto the driveway and toss him an air mattress. On Six Feet Under, Nate is shocked to discover that Brenda slept with the yin yang surfer guy. And I'd tell you about the latest Queer Eye, too, but I've never actually seen the show.
My friends think I am culturally illiterate.
Blame it on my husband. Because he swears that the local cable provider here in Cambridge, MA, is the devil incarnate, I have to wait until my favorite cable shows come out on DVD to see them. Sometimes that can take years, which my husband is reminded of on a fairly routine basis.
Thankfully, our government has come up with a plan to ensure that we—along with the other 15 percent of TV owners who are "cable holdouts"—are able to receive high-quality, over-the-air digital broadcasts. Under the FCC rule, all TVs 13 inches or larger are required to have tuners that can receive digital TV signals by July 1, 2007. The tuners will be necessary because Congress has plans to switch from analog to digital signals in 2006.
What a relief! I've been losing sleep lately over the question of whether or not I'd be able to enjoy high-quality, digital broadcast programming.
Unfortunately, it's looking more and more like a misguided attempt by government to set technology policy.
Because here's the catch: It's gonna cost me. And you—whether or not you get cable or even want HDTV capabilities. Although there's much debate about the exact number, adding a DTV tuner is expected to boost the price tag of a TV as much as $200. Consumers naturally aren't thrilled. And neither is the Consumer Electronics Association. It challenged the rule in court last year, to no avail.
Engineers, of course, are caught in-between. Design innovation, particularly in the area of electronics, is frequently oriented around the notion of value-add to a product. In the case of DTV tuners, there's no obvious benefit for the 85 percent of the market that currently get cable or satellite. And the 15 percent of the people who don't get cable in the first place (many presumably because they can't afford it), now get to buy a more expensive TV! Plus, there's a debate over whether the improvement in picture quality is even obvious on smaller screen TVs.
A better solution: Why not just give the cable hookup away to everybody? (Though forget about me getting my MTV: After the last time the cable guy failed to show up, my husband said they'd have to pay him to take it!)