D’ya hear yer man

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Digital switchover turns me off

When it comes to advances in technology I will be found clinging on to the past with the sort of grip favoured by high-flying trapeze artists.

The analogue to digital switchover is no different. This week, as analogue was put to bed for the last time, my knuckles turned a whiter shade of pale as I clutched onto my rooftop aerial.

Without being too negative I fear we’re doomed.

Not only will my aerial become nothing more than an angular piece of wall art thanks to the digital switchover, but the enforced digitalisation of television represents the final nail in the coffin of my video recorder.

VCRs were, in my opinion, the greatest devices known to man. The singular most ingenious quality of a video recorder was the fact it was really difficult to operate, with usually only one person per household able to ‘set the video’.

Because recording a programme was a tricky task, VCRs created a process of natural selection for TV recordings. Due to tape constraints and device memory it was impossible to programme the VCR to record every episode of Eastenders when you were on a fortnight’s holiday. And rightly so.

Now that hard disk enabled digiboxes have assumed all the former duties of video recorders a large problem has arisen - the art of recording has become too accessible. Anyone with a fully operational thumb can record whatever they desire whether it be a documentary on bracken, a one-off drama about a homecoming queen who is prone to vivid daydreams or, heaven forbid, an entire series of ‘Embarrassing Bodies’.

When I lived at home everyone had their own tapes which were used daily. My sister had one for ‘Saved By The Bell’ and ‘Clarissa Explains It All’, my mum had one for the period dramas and soaps, my dad had one that never got out of the cellophane and I took care of the other 247 tapes. Now, thanks to digitalisation, everyone’s recorded programmes are lumped into one big melting pot which, in itself, is tantamount to disaster. ‘Raa Raa the Noisy Lion’ should not be sandwiched between ‘Downtown Abbey’ and ‘Match Of The Day’ on my Sky Planner. I don’t like the idea of the little jungle-dwelling lion stumbling into bleak, post-war Britain, worse still I don’t want him falling the other way and getting a verbal bashing from John Terry.

And then there’s ‘Catch Up’ TV, brought to you by the likes BBC iPlayer, Sky Anytime and 4OD, which allows you to travel back in time and access the programmes you’ve missed.

The problem with all these different formats of accessing programmes is that nobody is watching TV ‘live’ anymore, opting instead to hoard programmes to watch on a rainy day.

For example the other week I attempted to start a conversation in work about the new series of ‘Homeland’ on Channel Four.

Gillian was bang up to date with series two, but I was an episode behind, Carmel was catching up on the first series as was Patrick. Alistair, bizarrely, had seen none of series one, but had got stuck straight into series two.

The result was that all conversation on the subject of ‘Homeland’ was banned in case any of us said something that would spoil it for someone elsewhere in the viewing chain.

The digital platform has created a vast televisual landscape spanning the past, present and future where possibilities are endless. I’ve never been a fan of having too much choice. Nor have I ever had the desire to time travel.

The result of having everything that’s ever been broadcast at our fingertips is a hard disk filled with more flotsam and jetsam than it’s humanly possible or necessary to watch.

Anyway, if you don’t mind I’d better wrap this up. I’ve just remembered I’ve had BBC Newsline on ‘Live Pause’ since last Tuesday.

Weekly teaser

The answer to last week’s teaser was: There is no missing pound. The three men were refunded £3 for the £30 room and the porter kept £2 for himself. This meant the men had paid £27 instead of the revised price of £25. Of this £27, the hotel got its required £25 and the porter kept £2. The trick in the question is that the £2 kept by the porter is added to the £27 when it should be subtracted from it.

Here’s this week’s teaser: An wealthy sheikh tells his two sons to race their camels to a distant city to see who will inherit his fortune. The one whose camel is slower will win. The brothers, after wandering aimlessly for days, ask a wise man for advise. After hearing the advice they jump on the camels and race as fast as they can to the city. What does the wise man say?