Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.30.05


HDTV - Bright, sharp, and pricey

I admit it -- I worship at the altar of Vladimir Zworykin who invented the television while he was working for Westinghouse.

Since my dear old Dad brought home a 17-inch black and while Sylvania in 1956, I have been a devotee. I even wrote letters to Annette Funicello of the Mickey Mouse Club and received a photo back. The photo is all yellow and shriveled up now and, for that matter, so is Annette.

I did indeed "Leave it to Beaver" and never missed an episode of "Dragnet."

It was the end of February when our family suffered the loss of a beloved member. My 24-inch Magnavox went "Pfffft" right in the middle of "Family Guy." After a period of mourning my delightful delphinium Ruth suggested that I might want to get a new TV for my birthday which was fast approaching.

"An excellent suggestion Dovetonsil," I said as I grabbed my coat and headed out the door.

Costco in West Springfield is a mammoth testament to conspicuous consumption. You can buy almost anything there. I get anything from socks to lawnmowers at Costco. They also have television sets.

I cruised the TV aisle like a Rottweiler in a sausage factory. "Cleanup on aisle 4" came over the PA system followed by a lad whose job it was to wipe up the drool left by middle-aged, pot-bellied TV addicts. I had almost too many choices.

Monster projection TVs that would take up a wall and cost $5000 was a bit rich for an Austin. On the low end you could buy a TV for 25 bucks.

I had to admit I was smitten by the High Definition models. Apparently they cram a lot more pixels into these babies and you end up with a picture that is flawless. HD makes ordinary TV look like a daguerreotype that had been left in the cat box.

Still, $600 was a bit pricey. But the picture was so clear. Maybe I could show Ruth a gardening show in HD and she'd fall in love with it. Good plan.

Well, at least she didn't exactly freak out. There were some unusual facial expressions but what could she say? It was my birthday right?

Naturally, I asked the Costco guy to fill me in on all aspects of HD. Seems like he only told me the good stuff. I was soon to find out that it was just a great big ordinary TV unless you get a new oval satellite dish and a new HD monthly package from Direct TV. It was going to cost me another $400 just to get up and running.

My birthday was wearing very thin. Still it was new technology and I'm sure to be the first kid on my block to have it.

I called the satellite installer guy. He climbed up on my roof and looked through a little gizmo and announced, "your trees are blocking the signal."

I was crestfallen, to say the least. And I'll tell you what else was going to be crestfallen. Those trees, that's what.

I called my neighbor who owed me a favor. I had helped him put his post and beam house together several years ago and he was ready to repay the debt. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was dampened a bit by slicing a pound or so of flesh off his leg with his chain saw.

Fortunately, the doctor said there was no permanent damage and he was home in an hour or so. He told me to wait until he healed up and we'd try again. No way was I waiting.

I bought a chainsaw and started crestfalling those trees like a demented lumberjack. Once you get started it's hard to stop. Eventually I denuded the entire ridge behind my house.

"Wow" said the technician as he gazed at the destruction. "Did you get a tsunami back here?"

I'm hooked up to HD now and I have to admit to being a bit ashamed by the amount of money I spent. I promised Ruth that I would be as frugal as Ghandi for the next ten years.

One bad thing is that I can't use my TiVo with the HD. The guy did say that they were coming out with an HD TiVo soon and it's only $1000 per copy. When is Father's Day?