Monday, 4 May 2015
When it comes to new technology, I like to think I'm up there with the best. I know millions of people who have not the foggiest idea what's going on when they turn on their tablet, switch on their PC or swipe their smart phone. They are blind to the technology that makes their lives so much better (sic). Not me, I'm super connected.
However, as far as digital TV we have been a bit behind the curve. We went digital in around 2000 and as a result are stuck there. Virgin Media provide our limited choice of TV channels through a set top box(STB) that is, I swear, contemporaneous with my first Amstrad PC. Our TV, quite the rage when we bought it in 2007, got on well with our STB but had some difficulty engaging with the then state of the art DVD player. However, we co-habited with this mash up of technologies...until we visited some friends.
Their house is a temple to technology with a flat screen super definition, smart TV dripping from every wall in the house. Entering their living room was confusing since the lack of an usher and ice-cream girl initially threw one. One wall was dedicated to viewing with an enormous TV hanging there challenging you to zap it with the handset. Well three actually. One to turn on the telly, one to operate the "sound bar" whatever that is, and a third to call out ADT in case of an emergency.
The thing was it was all there on that one wall. TV, films, internet, You Tube, the local Indian take away: at a click. I can tell you we were impressed...although the electric blinds in the bedroom were really something; but that's for another day.
So, after much cogitation we decided that we needed to upgrade our TV. Going on line at John Lewis we were immediately threatened by a 60 inch curved, 3D monster that would have devoured our front room. Even the 36 inchers looked over powering so we settled for a 22" Smart TV from Samsung. Well we'd bought our tumble dryer from them and it worked well so....why not a TV.
I had a vague idea what a Smart TV was: bit like my smart phone but with a bigger screen. Being John Lewis I could Click and Collect at our nearest Waitrose. A brilliantly convenient way for me to shop at Waitrose when otherwise I'd have gone to Lidl and saved half a month's pension.
I bought the said TV home. I have to own up to a mild sense of disappointment. It was slightly longer and less tall than the model it was replacing, but in area it was about the same. In fact its foot fall was much less than its predecessor's. I read the handbook, I read the on line manual. I Googled. I set about connecting our new Smart TV to the STB and the DVD player.
After much experimenting I was able to get the new hand set to switch the channels on the STB: except no matter what plug I plugged into what socket - there was no picture. After a few hours I managed to get the TV and the internet talking to each other and the TV worked if I used the old handset to change channels on the STB. I could not contact the DVD player.
All the guidance, all the handbooks do not help it appears when your STB is ancient. There was nothing anywhere which helped me get our new Smart TV to work as it should. I don't know how many times the bloody thing scanned channels to store - with a zero success rate. I tried all the combination of cables, plugs and sockets - nothing.
About 8 years ago we installed a digital TV aerial, but hadn't used it.There it was hanging limp and unused. When we'd connected the TV upstairs to the aerial we'd needed a separate STB to decode the signals, but I thought that our new Smart TV would be able to unscramble the signals without any additional technology.
It was a thrilling experience once again pushing an aerial plug into an aerial socket. I fired up the TV. From the menu I chose "Aerial" and "digital"and there it was: a picture. I went to "Setup" and clicked "Auto tune". Like magic, the little TV gobbled up all the free to air channels and stored them. I linked up the DVD and sure enough from the on screen menu I was able to start "Interstellar". All the other functions worked perfectly. We had our Smart TV working! And the picture is stunning.
And I discovered we had far more channels "Free to Air" than Virgin Media provided and the menu function is much more comprehensive. Part of that is due to the processing power of the TV, but also because of the antediluvian nature of our cable STB.
Virgin Media will be hearing from me.