Telly Tales

Just after the turn of the Millennium, we ditched our faithful old Sony 19″ 4:3 TV in favour of one of those newfangled wide-screen, 16:9 TVs. This, despite the mixed format broadcasting that was prevalent at the time. Still, hopefully that would get sorted out as wide-screen TVs became the norm.

I know it was just after the Millennium because it seemed that 99.9% of all TVs on sale were silver and, since all the rest of our entertainment kit was beautiful black, I really didn’t want the telly to clash. My good friend Howard (RIP) was in the same boat and, mentioning the silver plague to a sales person, was told, “silver is the Millennium colour, sir”. Ye marketing Gods! Howard eventually tracked down a German company, Loewe, who seemed to be the one and only company to buck the Millennium trend and who actually made black televisions. He bought one.

As well as not wanting silver, I don’t like TVs to dominate a room, hence the old 19″ Sony. The starting point for many companies’ wide-screen offerings seemed to be a relatively enormous 28″. Mercifully, Loewe, as well as making a black model, also made a 24″ model which would not look too much like the monolith from 2001, A Space Odyssey sitting in our room. It was not cheap but it was about the only option matching our requirements. I bought one. It turned out actually to be a smart TV in that it automatically adjusted its picture format to match an individual programme’s broadcast mode, either 4:3 or 16:9.

It also turned out to be not the most reliable TV in the world. The sound began breaking down in 2003 so it was off to TV-repair-man. More recently, Just before we went to Spain, it seemed to be developing another fault. On some channels the picture format kept jumping between 16:9 and 4:3. So much for German reliability. So much, also, for thinking that we’d sort out the broadcasting format within 10 years; it’s still a complete mess. Foolish boy!

Upon returning from Spain the jumping picture format seemed worse and, since the old two-ton-cathode-ray-tube approach is now completely defunct, we decided against TV-repair-man this time in favour of going for an LCD TV. At least the furniture would breathe a sigh of relief.

These darn things keep getting bigger. There are some smaller models but the opening size now is basically 26″. Fortunately, that size pretty much matched our old Loewe in terms of overall width and height dimensions so it would still fit our space without dominating. Our history was pushing us towards Sony but their pictures didn’t seem as sharp as some. Maybe Sony has had trouble transitioning from CRT to LCD? Panasonics seem to have a good reputation and they looked very good. However, we spotted a 26″ Samsung that looked every bit as good as the Panasonics and much better when one’s field of view included the price tag. We bought one.

Installation time. This is always something of a jigsaw puzzle: how to get a VCR, DVD player and a Satellite box hooked up to one TV with more hidden cables than a Boeing 777. Everything had worked on the old set through two scart leads and a coaxial aerial cable. The new TV has all that (and more) so I tried “simply” swapping like for like. The grand turn on and … nothing: nothing on the terrestrial channels; nothing on scart-1 (no signal message) and nothing on scart-2 (no signal message). Whoops – much head scratching. The connections were made on the TV’s connections panel but it wasn’t seeing anything. It seemed like the set wasn’t connected internally to its own connections panel for all signal sources to fail. Just before I was going to box it all back up and, completely deflated, return it as a duff unit, I spotted that my efforts had disconnected all three cables from their respective source units, the aerial, the DVD and the Satellite box. They were indeed connected to the telly but not one of them went anywhere useful. Unbelievable. I might have suspected one disconnection but not three. Remaking the connections, it burst in to life. Relief!

As well as two scart connections, this set comes equipped with a composite video/audio input (three leads), a progressive scan component video and audio connection (five leads), as well as some more newfangled high definition connections which I don’t need. (Apparently, it’s needed for Blu-Ray. Live and learn.) Just for fun, using too-short a lead, I tried my DVD player through the composite video/audio connection. To my surprise, It worked. That meant I could connect all three items individually. Though I didn’t have the required cables, my DVD player also has progressive scan component video outputs for the five cable connection. That should provide a better quality signal. I went to buy the component cables.

Now, will somebody please explain to me why I have to spend £30 for cables to connect a DVD player that costs only £30 itself? It’s barking! Nonetheless, we went for it, brought the cables home and connected the DVD using them. The grand turn on and … nothing (no signal message). Try remaking the connections and … still nothing. Retry the composite video version and … fine. The all-singing-all-dancing component video output from the DVD player just doesn’t seem to work.

I used my expensive new cables for the composite video and, after a couple of days of head-scratching and fretting, everything is now working. It can’t sort out the picture format (4:3 or 16:9) automatically, though.

One last footnote. Having failed within 10 years to sort out programme broadcast formats, we are now producing ever-larger TVs and barreling headlong into the brave new world of “high definition”. Even high definition apparently has three different formats (resolutions), or so the John Lewis sales person told me. Wonderful, yet more broadcasting confusion. So, we will soon be able to watch programmes in high definition on a 50″ monster that over-fills most folks’ lounges.

The real problem is that most of the programmes are crap. We’re always fixing the wrong problems.

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One comment on “Telly Tales
  1. Elrond says:

    I long for my CRT tune TV to die. I bought it when there were no wide screen programs other than on foreign satellite channels. I managed to con Rosemary into allowing me buy a decoder for European channels so she could watch wide screen English films on Scandinavian channels. I of course was more interested in the late evening films.

    Alas the Phillips TV, in black before the silver days, is still going strong and shows no tendency to die, other than one rather wobbly wheel.

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