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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

TV shopper baffled by technology

Such a quandary. It would be easier to decide on a new car. At least I understand car terms such as engine size, automatic locks, cruise control, and air conditioning.

But this shopping challenge is a tough one, and if I don't decide pretty soon I may as well bring the old 19-inch from the garage and hook it up again.

Obviously the subject is television and I am now in the sixth week of driving myself - and probably more than one salesman - crazy.

Modern options are numerous. The reasons for the options are not easily understood, at least not by me. When I bought the 19-inch set about 15 years ago, it was just a matter of going to the store, getting the best price for that size, writing a check, and taking it home. I may have picked a specific manufacturer but I doubt it.

Now I have a stack of information culled from store displays and consumer magazines.

At least I have learned what the letters on different models stand for.

LCD means liquid crystal display.

HD is high definition.

DLP is digital light processing.

Besides those options, price tickets announce widescreen, flat screen, rear projection, and the number of pixels.

After much thought about an appropriate size, I decided that a 32-inch screen would be the best size for my living room. If I ever get one home, that size screen probably will be a shock after years of watching a television almost half the size.

A friend suggested that a 26-inch would probably be OK for me. What do you mean OK? What am I, chopped liver?

I also am quite certain I want a thin model that I can lift and move around or even hang on the wall. That rules out rear projection because I believe that means the old fashioned models with the big behinds that take up a lot of room. However, they are considerably less expensive.

Granted I don't settle in for the day to watch TV, but I rarely miss the 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. news, cry when I miss Bob Barker on The Price is Right, and once in a while catch Dr. Phil, though he and his problem guests are getting a little wearing.

I can't say that I have owned a lot of television sets in my life, compared to some families. I hesitated to give up the 19-inch. It still worked, except for a few lines in the center. The lines didn't bother me, but I was beginning to be embarrassed when friends saw it and chuckled.

When I invited the cat caretaker to make herself at home and watch television, she spurned the offer, saying something like, "On that thing?" She has a 42-inch set.

I am old enough to remember the excitement that television created in the early 1950s. The few families who could afford a set could expect people they hardly knew to come to visit and stay late. I seem to remember popcorn being passed to the group gathered in a circle around the tube.

Many of the first TV screens were small and round and the pictures were black and white. The first public demonstration of television was in 1927 when Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover spoke in Washington and a group in New York watched it at the same time. That was big news. Today the world comes to us through the TV screen.

To me it was even more exciting in the 1960s when most TV shows switched to color.

A few years later no one objected to remote controls either. They fit so well into our sedentary lifestyle.



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