“Instant-On” Television

Those of us of a certain age no doubt recall the days when, if you wanted to watch television, you had to get up from your seat, walk up to the television set, and turn a button. That turned on the television, and then you returned to your seat.

And waited.

Eventually, after around 30 seconds, or maybe a little more, especially when the set was a little older, the television would go on and you’d have a picture.

Another thing of the past: the expression "Don't touch your dial. We'll be right now." Now, they don't even have dials.

Another thing of the past: the expression “Don’t touch your dial. We’ll be right back.” Now they don’t even have dials.

But then came “instant-on” television and as soon as you turned that button, and later when you started using a remote control device, the television was “on,” picture and all, virtually instantly.

Hence the term “instant-on.”

And it was a wonderful thing, a seemingly miraculous thing, presented as a major selling point in all advertisements for new televisions, that as soon as you turned on the television it actually, completely went on, as instantly and as predictably as a light switch.

So what happened?

Today, many televisions, maybe even most, are no longer instant on. Instead, you hit your remote – The Curmudgeon’s not sure he knows how to turn on his television manually and he has no idea what he’d do if the remote didn’t work – and there’s a delay. Sometimes there’s more than one remote (and The Curmudgeon knows of one household where there are four remotes: one to turn on the television, one to activate the programming provider’s box, one to turn on Apple TV, and a fourth just for sound volume). In the case of his television, and he’s seen it with others, after that delay the brand name of the television appears on the screen, then there’s another delay, and only then, a few seconds later, does a picture appear. He knows of one home he visits that uses Verizon Fios as its programming provider and every time the television is turned on it has to “detect” a signal before a picture appears.

Obviously the world has much bigger problems than television sets that don’t instantly produce pictures, but you have to wonder: why did an entire industry abandon what it had so vigorously promoted as a major advancement just 30 or so years ago? Why the backsliding? Why is it no longer capable of giving us instant pictures even thought today’s televisions are far more sophisticated than they’ve ever been?

The Curmudgeon would go on but he’s been writing this as he sits in front of his television, the picture has finally gone on, and Minnie Driver is as adorable as ever in that new show about the kid with cerebral palsy and he wants to watch.

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