Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Electronic Empire

When people (especially people under the age of 18) come into our house, they usually wonder where the television is. If they think they know us, they might assume that we wouldn't have a TV. And I say think they know us, because if they truly knew us, they would know that we are addicted to a number of shows that we wouldn't live without, hippieish lifestyle aside. One of the things that attracted me to our house was the fact that there is a finished basement, which we refer to as the family room, and which is a combination of playroom and living room. I love that we have a living room on the first floor that is quiet (well, quiet is a relative term when you have four kids....but quiet in that we use it for reading, sitting in front of the fire, playing board games and talking...and the kids do play in it as well, and generally not quietly, but you get the idea.)

Our television was a regular old set, you know, not a flat screen, not high definition, not LCD--just the kind we all grew up with and called a TV. (Notice I did not even go into the fact that our family of 6 only owns one TV--this baffles most people!) We had a VCR and a DVD player, and when we moved here in 2006 we switched cable options and got a DVR (something I have loved and can barely remember not having!) We have always had a good stereo, because Matt is an audiophile. But in general, our tastes were pretty simple and we didn't feel very deprived that we seemed to be the only household in America without 5 flat screen TVs in the house, Blu Ray players and surround sound equipment (though in point of fact, Matt does have the stereo hooked through the TV in such a way that we can watch in surround sound whenever we wish. We just use it for movies, normally.)

Our cell phone is a normal one--yes, it has a camera, takes videos, plays games and such but I had the company switch off Internet capability after getting a few unexplained charges...I have no clue how to use the Internet on a phone, and figure I spend more than enough time online without taking it with me as well! And the sharp reader might notice I didn't pluralize "cell phone"--and this is because, yes, we only have ONE! It's simple, really--we don't truly need more than one. Matt's schedule is very predictable. He's in the office, or he's on the way home. He has a phone on his desk. And voice mail if he's away from his desk. Rachel is homeschooled. She does take the phone with her sometimes--if I am home with the other kids and she is going somewhere else. If someone is home--we have the regular phone. And we don't text, either. If I want to talk to someone, I will call them. I don't understand the rationale behind holding a phone and not using it to talk. I think it's a pretty stupid concept. I have email and Facebook for my texting needs. A phone is for speaking into.

On to iPods. We didn't have those, either. Until I joined the gym in January, my workouts were either at home or taking a walk or bike ride. When I worked out at home, I was either using a DVD or tape, or I was playing music on the stereo. When I worked out in the open air, I used my time to think and get some quiet in my not-so-quiet life. Matt doesn't travel a whole lot for his job (plus we go with him whenever possible), and his commute is in a car, where he has music already. Rachel had a discman that she'd gotten several years ago, before iPods were very common. And the younger kids didn't have an interest in sitting still and listening to music, or sticking things in their ears to do so.

However, for Rachel's birthday, she received an MP3 player from her friend, Chloe. And then we kind of got hooked. Rachel's discman had by then developed the annoying habit of skipping if it wasn't immobilized, so I didn't even start using that for my workouts at the gym. Rachel kindly lent me her player when I worked out and she used it the rest of the time. And it was so easy to use, so tiny, no CDs or tapes to lug along with us. We loved it. However, a few things started to bug me. First, just the whole borrowing thing when I wanted to go to the gym. Rachel never refused me, but I started to wonder if I was bugging her by asking for it. Also, she put all the music on it--she has wonderful taste in music because she listens to everything we like! (That's a joke! But seriously, for 13, she is very sophisticated and loves classic rock. She is not a Hannah Montana, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, peer-pressured sort of a girl.) So I had no problem with what was actually on the player--but it wasn't ordered in the way I would do it for working out. I might find a Ramones or a Green Day song that had me working hard and fast--and then James Taylor would come on next, and my pace would slow to a crawl. So I began thinking more and more about my own iPod, and then I saw the ad for the newest version of the iPod Shuffle.

Smaller than an AA battery? Controls on the earbud cord, so you can reach up and click one of 3 positions without slowing down? A voiceover technology that tells you the song and artist without interrupting your song, or runs through the names of your playlists till you pick one? For $79? Sign me up! We ordered it on Saturday and it will be here today or tomorrow. Coincidentally, Rachel's MP3 player bit the dust yesterday as well--4 months after receiving it, which is a shame, but I have to shake my head and note that it wasn't a REAL iPod, so what can you expect, really? Naturally, she had her eye on the one I was getting, but it happened that I'd just been looking at my Discover Rewards account and it just so happened that I had enough reward to get a free iPod Shuffle (the last generation, the one everyone has with the bright colors and the big circular control button on the front) and figured, that would be better than spending another $79. Rachel was happy with that, so hers in on the way as well.

And while we were iPod shopping, Matt ordered a Blu Ray player. And on Saturday, after a few months of research, we went to Best Buy and bought a big flat screen TV...the one Matt wants and the one he says is the best for our needs. It fits perfectly in our entertainment shelves in the family room, and it is great to see everything so big and clear. We watched a documentary about African animals on it, and it felt like we were really on the Serengheti watching the herd migrations. And Matt assures me that the picture is only going to improve, because he has some cables on the way that do something--can you tell I am not the electronics person around here??--and because the Blu Ray player will upgrade all the movies, and because he is going to (as soon as the Blu Ray and cables arrive) change our cable box to a High Def cable box. I personally can't imagine seing much difference in the picture, but hey. I'm willing to try!

So now we have what Matt calls the Electronic Empire. Now all I have to do is learn how to work the stuff! Wish me luck....



Anonymous Blogger said...

Technology always makes for an interesting conversation in our house. My husband is a technology guy, works with it as his 9-5 job and teaches it on the side. I am not so into technology. We do not own a lot of it. Even though we have 6 tv's in our house (yes 6, soon to be 7), they are all old tube tv's. One of them is over 20 yrs old, while the others are between 5-8 yrs old. I rely on my VCR, absolutely hate DVD (but we do have one) and I have no idea what DVR is. I also don't text, never have, and have a real simple, 5 yr old cell phone (no camera). I got my first video gaming system over the winter and the last time I had any type of video game was Atari in 1980. My husband likes his stereos and surround sound too, but my stereo is 19 yrs old and his just died a few months ago. He had hooked it up to the tv to get that surround sound feel. I do have an ipod, which I don't really use. I got it as a gift last year and was excited about it, but now it sits on my kitchen counter collecting dust.

My husband wants a flat screen badly, so that may be our next tv. I just have to give in first.

Sorry if I hijacked your blog! I had a lot of comments!! Good topic!

Nan Patience said...

our most serious media lapse is in the music department, I want something to plug the ipod into that also plays CDs, casettes, records, and whatever I say, on an amplifier. Preferably something that doesn't skip when we're dancing around the room, like that last system, which is now in the basement...

Chloe said...

HD and BluRay make all the difference. You'll definitely be able to tell. (And I'm aware that I'm late with this and that the TV and iPods have alrrived already..^^)