TV Time

Back when I was a kid, I would visit my grandparents on the weekends. They lived in the coutry and had a big antenna on top of their house. Inside, on top of the TV, was a small box with a dial on it. You used that dial to turn the antenna for better reception (at least that’s how I remember it).

Anyway, with this setup they got two channels – 10 and 12. It was simple to find something to watch. See what’s on one channel, then see what’s on the other channel. Watch the one that looks most interesting.

Fast forward about 20 years – now my grandparents live in town and have cable. Even with cable they only have about 30-40 channels to pick from so they still just click through the channels until they find something to watch. Maybe not the ideal situation, but it gets the job done.

Yesterday I found myself trying to explain Dish Network to my grandmother. She picked up the remote and asked me “How do you change the channel?”

“No problem,” I said. “First you press guide then use the up and down arrows to scroll through the list of channels. The list shows the name of the show beside each channel and there’s a description of the show in the top, right corner. Once you find the one you want, press Select to watch it.”

In hindsight, I probably should’ve said “This is the only thing on right now.” It’s not that my grandmother is dumb or can’t learn new things, it’s just that her idea of “changing the channel” is very different from mine.

It is still possible to click through the channels one at a time, but there are probably hundreds on pay-per-view and sports channels that would slow you down. Not to mention, with the guide you don’t need to visit each channel to see what’s on.

This difference in thinking (I’m not going to say “paradigm shift”) applies to many other areas. It’s not always a generational difference either. Sometimes it’s simply a geek trying to explaing things to a non-geek.

I try to take note of these situations and think of interesting ways to overcome them. I’m not exactly sure why I do this. Maybe it’s the programmer in me that always wants to find solutions to the world’s problems.

For example, on our DirecTV system at home I’ve set up a favorites list called “Watchable”. These are all of the channels that we can actually watch. I could probably eliminate at least half of those channels and come up with a list of channels that we most frequently watch. With that in place, it would be possible to flip through all of the channels and see what’s on. Just like in the good old days.

I can’t wait for the day when one of my kids or (gasp!) grandkids has to explain the latest technology to me. Hopefully they’ll read this post and go easy on me…