On the Contrary: Computers and Television Should Remain Separate. Oct20

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On the Contrary: Computers and Television Should Remain Separate.

Ask any technological prognosticator, and they will assure you that the next major change in our home consumption of entertainment content will be the merging of our televisions with our computers. We already see it happening, what with our cable services also being our Internet providers, and with On Demand and streaming videos playable on both our laptops and our flat screen TVs.  But soon, all programming and content might be on one device—an entertainment super hub that will be the center of our homes and the center of our lives.

This prospect terrifies me. This isn’t going to be a cute and benevolent hybrid like a labradoodle. This is going to be a monstrous mutation like Brundlefly.

I say this because my computer is already a kind of monster. Like the majority of people working in the developed world, my computer is the center of my life. It’s my typewriter, library, phone/mail service, stereo, photo album, video editing suite, newspaper, calendar, and (thanks to streaming video) home movie theater. Oh, and let’s not forget social life (thanks Facebook). I try to sit at my computer and focus on writing, or sending an email, or whatever single task I have sat down to do. But it never works out that way. There’s always some article to read, some video to stream, some Facebook friend to “check up on” (stalk). And I’m not even getting into Wikipedia, on which time spent is calculated through Relativity. Like an astronaut moving at the speed of light, when I start trolling Wikipedia I might only experience a few minutes, but for the rest of the world hours have passed.

I am not even half as productive as I used to be. And I honestly can’t help myself. I no longer have any attention span. I’m glad I made it through the public school system before the web perfected of streaming video, or I would have required some serious medication to pass my classes. I probably need the pills now. On the plus side, though, I’m full of useless facts that come in handy at bar trivia nights.

I’m not complaining. Computers have enriched our lives as much and probably more so than they have abused our attention spans. But there is a limit.

For me, that limit has been that I can’t watch television on my computer. Sure I could take my laptop with me to the couch, or I could find one of those sites that stream television over the Internet, but I’d rather enjoy the passive experience of being entertained rather than actively seeking things to entertain me. I can’t stream anything on my computer without having another window open to surf around and find something I might be more interested in than what I’m “watching.” But when I’m watching “Madmen” on the couch, I’m watching “Madmen.” There are no other distractions (well, except during commercials when I need to replenish my glass of Pepsi Max). Television is as close to the theatrical experience as is possible inside my apartment.

If my computer and the television merge, there will no longer be this separation. I’ll be surfing through episodes of “Madmen”, with a separate window to look up the history of any companies they’re representing on the show, or significant historical events of the 1960s, or where I’ve seen the actress playing Don’s new fling before, or…you get the idea.

On the flip side, I doubt that I will every finish anything again. I have a hard enough time focusing on what I’m writing now (did you know dinosaurs would taste more like hawk than chicken?). Imagine if I could have Sports Center running constantly in another window. I would be lost.

Nay, I will be lost. Because it’s going to happen. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime soon—probably before there is peace in the Middle East or they make GHOSTBUSTERS 3. But until that day comes, I’m going to enjoy keeping my television watching and computer consumption separate, and hope against hope that by the time the electronic entertainment overlord has been installed in my home that I will have some good medication to resist its hypnotic powers.

featured image credit: blimpa