The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

TV THAT WATCHES YOU
There's something I forgot to include among the childhood "I Used To Believe" items I listed earlier. It involves that device that was oh-so-influential in my childhood upbringing: The television set.

When I was a kid, I used to believe that the broadcasters knew whether or not you were watching a certain show. More accurately, I thought they could tell whenever you were tuned to a certain channel at a certain time. I think I must've heard about the concept of television ratings at an early age, but didn't catch how they were determined through sampling a small percentage of the viewing public. I probably figured that the only way the television execs could get numbers like that was that there was some kind of transmitting device, either in the television set or in the cable, that gave them feedback whenever a TV was tuned into a this or that channel.

The upshot of this was that I was pretty fanatical that any shows that I hated, or deemed were stupid, COULD NEVER be allowed to come through our TVs, not even for a few seconds. If they did, that meant that me and my family were actually helping that rotten show's ratings, and thereby keeping it from being cancelled. Shows that I liked, of course, were all systems go.

I noticed that at least one other person on "I Used To Believe" also had this belief growing up, and I seconded her contribution rather than add mine and be redundant.

Anyway, I'm not sure when I overcame this faulty information; probably not until mid-adolesence. There is a lasting effect from this for me: Even today, if there's something on that I particularly don't like, I tend to switch the channel a bit quicker than I normally would. I guess in the deep recesses of my mind, I still sorta cling to the idea that the TV can tell what I'm watching.

But wouldn't you know, today the technology is in place, in the form of cable set-top boxes, digital cable input, and Personal Video Recorders to turn my childhood fantasy into reality. Chilling reality, for some.