Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Open Letter to the Video Electronics Industry

Dear Sir or Madam,

I included the “madam” thing in my salutation so as not to seem sexist right off the bat, and while I’m sure there are women working in all segments of your industry (blah, blah, blah), I’m even more sure that you’re probably a him and not a her.

I write this to you even though I know my plea may well be drowned out by the latest round of high-five slapping in your research and development department, but I’m going to say it anyway: in no way do I need more pixels in my television set. I haven’t said this before, and I don’t mean to pile it on, but I might as well tell you that I also don’t need more pixels in my computer monitor.

Well, there it is. I guess we both need to deal with this now that it’s out there. Please, just hear me out.

The definition of my television set is as high as I need it to be – it’s as high as I’ll ever need it to be in fact. Actually, if I’m being totally honest here, it’s already too high insofar as it exceeds my eye’s capacity to tell the difference between 720i or 1080i or anything higher than that. I know this might come as a shock to you because I seemed so happy when you first told me – via your last press release -- about your new 3200 x 6400i television that would produce pictures so sharp, images so well-defined, that interaction with actual human beings would become obsolete. I did think it was cool. At first. But then…well, I don’t know what happened. I guess as I began to contemplate the implications of this pixel race for supremacy, I began to worry.

We both know that hi-def as a concept is something that guys -- not women – really want, and I think it’s time that you – the video electronics industry -- recognized that perhaps this is something you’ve focused on a bit too much. I’m sure it all started with the best of intentions, although maybe not. Guys are good at egging each other on and maybe at some point, some engineer guy said to some other engineer guy, ‘I bet you I can cram even more pixels into this damn thing’ and the other guy said, ‘no effing way, dude’ and pretty soon you were off to the races. This is nothing new. After all, 98 % of You Tube videos are of guys getting other guys to do stuff that is not remotely advisable, but they do it anyway just to see if they can. Then somebody else tries to one-up them. Then somebody films it. Then somebody calls an ambulance. That’s what high definition has become for you guys. A dare, a bet, an arms race that has gotten out of control. You’ve lost your sense of proportion in your quest to see how precise and detailed you can make our video screen interfaces. Not that a lot of your engineers are your typical guy types who hang out trying to eat as many Buffalo-style chicken wings as possible just to prove their manliness, but, hey, they are still guys and as such they’re prone to this sort of thing too, even if they did it in a really geeky way – like trying to see who could get the lowest standard deviation on their research data. Like it’s a limbo contest or something.

Now this is not to say that I don’t appreciate a great many things that men’s tendency to over-focus has produced. Rockets, computers, quantum mechanics, hot sauce, cat fish noodling. Great. Love all that stuff. I am not saying the over-focusing doesn’t have its place. What I’m saying is that I do not need more pixels in my television set. That’s all. Don’t be all like, “Well, fine! Forget it! I’m the bad guy here, I guess! What do you want from me?” and then go have a few drinks and find a hooker in some misguided attempt to get back at me. That’s not the reaction that I’m looking for. I just do not need more pixels in my television set, and if you can’t just sit there and listen without blowing up about it then I’m not sure where we go from here. Not to be sexist again, but I think we all know that it’s the girlfriends and wives and mothers of the world who put the kibosh on stupidity -- or as you might know it, “fun” – and try to reel the men of this world back in before they burn their eyebrows off or puncture a testicle, whether it be their own or someone else’s.

And if I might play armchair psychoanalyst for just a moment, I think I know how this particular pixel fixation may have gotten started in the first place. When you were a kid, probably you, like me, filled out the back of the Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrapper and sent away for a pair of X-ray vision glasses and when you got them, they totally didn’t work. You could not see through people’s clothes like you’d been promised and ever since then, you’ve been fixated on creating something capable of greater and greater definition, definition so intense that you can actually peer into the fabric of another person’s soul – or through underwear, as the case may be. Whereas I got over the betrayal, you ... well, you became fixated on pixels.

Again, I’m just asking that you please stop and think about this. Not for a minute am I saying you are bad people, it’s just that we’re good on the pixels. That’s all. Let’s just leave things as they are before we all end up with high def electron microscopes in our homes. It takes a real man to walk away from a dare, and all I can say is that perhaps it’s time to be a man and put the calipers away before you ruin any more of your testicles.

Thank you for your time.