January 6, 2013

TV size matters

When it comes to television, size matters. 

When I first saw it in Radio City as a child in the early 1940s, I remember a screen that measured only a few inches. It was a real miracle.

When my aunt and uncle bought their first set in New Jersey, the box was huge but the screen was about 6 inches. I remember straining to watch “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” through the snow in black and white in about 1949.

When my dad could finally afford a TV, our living room was graced with a Fada set. I’m guessing the screen was 13 inches.

Kaye and I finally graduated to a 24-inch screen with stereo sound in the ‘70s and thought that was as good as it gets. Wrong again. In the ‘90s, our wonderful kids got together and gifted us with a 35-inch set. It served us well until a few weeks ago when it began to snap and bang, and I thought it was about to blow us to oblivion. I pulled the plug and headed downtown to find a replacement.

Our living room is 30 feet long, so we decided to go for 50 inches and 40 pounds in weight compared to more than 200 pounds for the old one. I know, because I had to roll it end-over-end to get it out on the back deck where it will rest till spring.

As we set up the new TV and worked to make the picture fill the screen for every program and every channel, our son Dale told me I should write a column about that “aspect” of modern television.

I have read thousands of words purporting to explain aspect ratios, pixels, resolution, SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition). In the interest of full disclosure, I failed physics at Clarkson back in 1956-1957. The more I tried to fathom the reasons the picture on my new television didn’t always fill the screen, the more frustrated I became. I zoomed and stretched and closed one eye, but none of that helped every time. I finally found a button that seemed to work most of the time and stuck with it.

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