Tag Archives | TV

A Brief History of TV in America in the Form of Old RCA Commercials

For no particular reason other than that it’s Friday, let’s take a guided tour of the evolution of TV in America from the late 1930s through the early 1970s–as shown in commercials and promotional films from RCA, which was once practically synonymous with consumer electronics in this country. You may take moving images, color screens, remote controls, and displays small enough to tote around for granted, but they were all startling breakthroughs in their day.

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The Olympics: Big Screen Edition

Sure it’s 2010 and you can now get your Olympics fix online (albeit with some headaches), but if you’re home in front of the big living-room screen, why not take advantage of the all-HD experience? NBC Universal is offering coverage on NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, and Universal HD, and, as in years past, the broadcast company has made deals left and right with pay-TV operators to provide on-demand content.
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The Top (Pantless) Ads of Super Bowl 44

Fortunately, I don’t need to come up with the perfect “Ads of Super Bowl 44” lede as NewTeeVee pretty much nailed it: Beer solves lots of problems, women hold men back from their dreams and this year, pants are optional. But I can’t say there are any commercials we’ll remember beyond this week. My personal fave was the Kia ad (above) – fun, engaging, not crass, and it made me think about their product. (What does Go Daddy do again?) Speaking of crass, the most entertaining pantless commercial didn’t even make it on the air. And I’m bummed Denny’s Nannerpus nemesis has been replaced by chickens.

In what’s become an annual tradition, TiVo determined the top ads of Super Bowl 44 “using aggregated, anonymous, second-by-second audience measurement data about how 30,000 TiVo subscribers watched the game, and for the first time, determined not just the most viewed commercials, but instead the most engaging ads throughout the game.”

1. Doritos – “House Rules”
2. Snickers – “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”
3. Focus on the Family – “The Tebows Celebrate Life”
4. Doritos – “Underdog”
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors – “Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt”
6. E*Trade Financial – “Baby Love Triangle”
7. Bud Light – “Observatory”
8. CareerBuilder – “Casual Fridays”
9. TruTV’s NFL Full Contact – “ Punxsutawney Polamalu”
10. Hyundai Sonata – “Brett Favre MVP, Still Playing at 50”

If you missed any of the commercials, or just want to catch them again, hit Hulu, CBS, or YouTube. What were your favorites?

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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TV in 3D: To Be or Not to Be?

Sony 3DI’m not at the IFA consumer-electronics exhibition in Berlin this week, but Sony Chairman Sir Howard Stringer is–and the Financial Times is reporting that he’s going to announce an ambitious initiative to build 3D products–everything from HDTVs to laptops. It’s the latest bit of 3D boosterism from an entertainment and electronics industry that’s increasingly gaga for the technology.

Me, I’m instinctively skeptical of anything that’s in 3D except the real world–the effect fails to work for me as often as it succeeds, and the glasses give me a headache. (I blame the fact that I wear glasses anyhow, and must jam the 3D ones over my normal specs.) I’ll believe it’s the next best thing when it stays popular for more than, oh, nine months.

But let’s use this as an excuse for a T-Poll:


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Twitter Inspires a TV Show. A Revolutionary One!

You've Got MailVariety reports that Twitter has inspired an upcoming TV show:

The San Francisco-based web phenom has partnered with Reveille and Brillstein Entertainment to develop an unscripted TV skein described as “putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format.”

I don’t wanna judge a series I haven’t seen–and, come to think of it, probably won’t make time for even if it’s a smash. But Twitter’s celebration of celeb-watching (as seen in its recommendation that you follow Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian) makes me nervous. I have nothing against following the rich and famous via Twitter, but it’s not the thing I’d be proudest of if I’d invented Twitter.

Side note: The Twitter TV series was created by Amy Ephron, whose sisters Nora and Delia came up with 1998’s AOL-inspired You’ve Got Mail–an earlier attempt by Hollywood to cash in on an online trend. It was the first thing that jumped to mind when I read about the Twitter show, even before the Ephron connection dawned on me. Wasn’t 1998 about the time that AOL jumped the shark?


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Attention, Analog TV Holdouts: You Have Until June 12th

Predicta TVI’m kind of tired of the whole subject, but just in case you haven’t heard and care: The House has passed the bill that delays the digital-TV transition from February 17th to June 12th. If you’ve got any analog TVs bumping around the house that aren’t connected to a digital source, you’ve got slightly under four additional months to (A) buy a converter, (B) supply them with a digital-ready set-top box, or (C)  buy a snazzy new TV.

That is all.

No, wait–part of the reason behind the delay is the mess that is the government’s $40 coupon program for converter boxes–too many people who need the coupons don’t have them. My buddies at consumer electronics info site Retrevo aim to help with a Good Neighbor Coupon Exchange Program. They’re serving as an intermediary to put people with extra coupons in touch with folks who can use them. And they’re also offering a 20-page survival guide for the whole transition.

OK, now that is all. For now, at least…


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House Fails to Pass Digital TV Deadline Extension

Predicta TVIf you’re reading these words, you’re all set for the end of over-the-air analog TV–you’ve got a reasonably modern TV and/or cable or satellite service. (Actually, some of you seem to be getting your TV over the Internet.) But there are those who aren’t ready for the planned February 17th switchover to digital transmissions–in part, it seems, because of screwups with the discount coupons for converter boxes. That’s why President Obama and other support an extension of analog service to June 12th, and why the Senate passed a bill approving the extension on Monday.

Today, however, the House of Representatives failed to fall in line: It didn’t pass the bill. Unless someone throws a hail-mary pass to extend the deadline through other means–and it sounds like that could still happen–some Americans will turn on their TVs come mid-February and find nothing but static.

I’ve been trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of the delay or not, and I’m still grappling with the issues. Over at ZDNet, my friend Sam Diaz makes a cogent argument in favor of just pulling the trigger on analog and moving on: There’s been tons of advance warning about the switchover, and some folks will fail to be ready even if you delayed the transition to 2019. And a delay would cost the broadcasting industry millions.

But the people who are still receiving analog TV are, almost by definition, the most helpless of TV watchers. They’re technophobes. Or people who watch very little TV but might need it in case of emergency. Or folks so poor that the fact they can’t get a $40 converter coupon is an obstacle.

I keep having these visions of my grandparents fiddling with their little portable TV and wondering why they can’t tune in Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and the CBS Evening News. My grandma and grandpa have been gone a long time, but there are plenty of other grandparents out there, and some of them will be flummoxed by the transition.

Of course, you could make the argument that the best way to get stragglers on board is to deprive them of TV by completing the damn switchover: If analog broadcasts disappear on Feburary 17th, it’ll nudge some folks to head out to RadioShack and buy the coverter boxes they should have known about a long time ago.

Anyhow, I’m going to throw the decision in your lap while I continue to think about it. What’s your take?


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These Speakers Sound Great. And They’re…Invisible!

Emo LabsI had two hands-down favorites at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. One of them was the one that was everybody’s favorite: Palm’s upcoming Pre phone. The other was a little-known technology which I saw demoed in a private preview. It’s from a Boston-area startup called Emo Labs, and it’s a new technology for loudspeakers that called Edge Motion. Emo says that Edge Motion lets it build “invisible loudspeakers” for incorporation into TVs, computer displays, notebooks, and another devices with screens–and that its technology is the first all-new development in speaker design in decades. Judging from the sneak peek I saw, that isn’t hype.

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TV Today: It’s Still About Lean Forward vs. Sit Back

Imagine yourself watching TV right now. Where would you be? Would you be sitting back in your favorite chair in your living room and holding your remote control in one hand? Or are you sitting down at your local Starbucks, sipping coffee and watching video on your iPod?

Odds are most of your TV watching still occurs in comfort of your living room with your TV set. But increasingly, consumers are watching video anywhere they can: from work on the PC, on the road from a laptop, on iPods and iPhones, and other portable media players.

Even the term watching TV can be misconstrued, since there are so many options today. Does it mean watching a live broadcast TV channel as it is being aired? Does it mean viewing a show on-demand from your DVR? Does it mean buying the latest Daily Show episode from iTunes and watching it on your iPhone during your morning commute? Or maybe you’d rather go to NBC.com and watch the full episodes of Heroes for free (with limited commercials, of course).

I’ve recently been thinking about an old phrase from the early days of Internet video: Lean forward vs. sit back. Essentially, it’s the difference between PCs and TVs. PCs are more interactive while TVs are a passive experience. Lots of companies I spoke to back then were interested in the future of television and interactive TV services and wanted to blur the lines between PCs and TVs.

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Canon’s Cool SED TVs: Finally Legal

canonlogoI didn’t mention this in yesterday’s post about the Consumer Electronics Show, but another issue I have with the event–which, again, I like–is that it’s not the crystal-clear preview of what’s next for personal tech that you might assume it would be. After last year’s show, I wrote a piece about that odd fact for Slate, and one of the examples I gave was surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) TV–a cool technology which Canon and Toshiba kept showing off but not shipping.

One of the things that has kept SED out of our living rooms–or at least out of the living rooms of the exceedingly well-heeled–is a nettlesome patent lawsuit that has dogged the technology since 2005. But the Financial Times is reporting that SED’s legal woes are over, and Canon–which bought out Toshiba’s interest in the technology–is now free to manufacture sets.

Which doesn’t mean that it’ll do so any time soon. The FT quotes Canon’s president as saying that the current price plunge for LCD and plasma TVs means it would be a lousy time to introduce a new technology. That leaves open the possibility that SED could be trumped by OLED–another nascent technology that’s actually available in sets you can buy–before it ever gets going. (I’m not enough of an expert on display technologies to really compare SED and OLED’s pros and cons and chances of success–I just remember being wowed by SED, and I’m being paranoid.)

I’m kind of assuming that Canon won’t be trumpeting SED at next month’s CES. But it’s nice to know it could do so without it being an utter pipe dream.


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