Evolution of My TV Viewing

GEEK ALERT: So, I have a confession to make, I like to watch my dad’s TV with him. I know, that’s not earth-shattering confession, is it? But what makes it at least a little interesting is that I am in Glasgow, (Scotland not Kentucky, incidentally) and he is California.

Are you impressed now? Even just a little?

Well, before I get to that, let me back up a decade or two in the history of my viewing pleasures…

In the early nineties, in a rather erratic move, I relocated from California to Scotland. Being the rather pampered child that I am (read: spoiled), my dad used to send me video cassette tapes of my favourite TV shows in each in care packages. So blessed was I, that he even used to cut out the commercials for me, so that he could fit more of my cheesy TV shows on each tape. Recorded at LP, the quality was a bit iffy,  to say the least, but it meant I could have six or eight hours of viewing pleasure. Good times…

Later on, as technology changed, we both bought Panasonic DVD Recorders which used RAM technology, and, just like the earlier video tapes, you could get anywhere from an hour or two – up  to about eight – on a single RAM DVD. (Forgive me for not remembering exactly how much RAM DVDs held, but it was the same principle applied in long play video cassettes – which also meant the less-good viewing quality).

To be honest, I didn’t care, as long as I had my American telly fix.

slingboxFast forwarding to the present, if you will, we have new technology yet again. Last summer, a friend of mine mentioned this new type of gadget, called a Slingbox (pic left) which I’d never even heard of.  With one of those contraptions, you could rig it up to your cable or satellite box, and watch your own TV anywhere in the world. I thought that sounded pretty snazzy, and so I went out to our local electronics store, FRY’S, and picked one up for around a hundred pounds (appx $170.00)!

Getting it home, we unpacked it, wired it up to dad’s Comcast Cable box, set it up with the wi/fi router in the house, and voila I could watch dad’s TV when in my bedroom, at the local coffee shop or indeed when back in Scotland.

To say it has revolutionised our TV viewing would be an understatement.

watching a slingboxSometimes I fire it up while he’s sleeping (California is eight hours behind),  sometimes we watch when I first wake up, and others when he does.

Shhhh,…Don’t tell the advertisers this bit, but when we watch together, we have a system whereby he fast forwards through the commercials and hits “pause”  – and then I un-pause it – which makes it feel like we’re really watching together.

At less-peak times, we can even watch TV together while talking on Skype. This can get a bit troubling though, as there is usually a few seconds delay – from what I am seeing to what he is seeing. So we tend to just have a Skype Chat open and we message comments about the show that way.

It’s the sharing of the technology and connecting through it that makes it a more pleasurable experience for us. I could see this ability to connect while viewing becoming a much more common place in the future – in much the same way as video gamers play video games against people all over the world logged in, with their headsets on, we’ll have people watching TV with their friends or families who might be up the road or  even across  the globe.

The truly exciting bit of all of this  for me – is that with a small adapter plugged into the MAC – I can rig up the Slingbox and view my dad’s TV on my own TV in my living room or in my bedroom.

That means I am no longer restricted to sitting and watching it on my laptop.

Sometimes I do, of course, but there are now at least options for me – depending on time of day, type of show viewing etc. (E.G. Watching later in the evening often slows my bandwidth way down, and the picture ends up less than viewable on a 42″ TV screen).

It’s definitely changed our lives a little. Even dad’s delighted with it it too:

“You should have seen how impressed the nurses and hospital staff were when I told them I was watching my TV at home” he boasted to me when a recent broken hip left him in there for weeks on end.

Yep, dad was sure glad I’d bought that Slingbox then…

Who knows, I might just buy one to put on my UK TV and then he can watch mine some time. Or I can when I am  in California this Spring. Then, I truly will never miss a TV show again.

Here is a 60-second video of my Slingbox in action!


It will be interesting to see the way television will go as more people take up Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, YouView, and whatever else crops up over the coming year or so. It’s a question Colin Kelly recently addressed in his first blog here at NSDesign. He reckons there will be less call 3D TV and more we’ll be watching, tweeting, and chatting all from our actual television screen itself.

“…instead of bashing away at a smart phone or laptop during your favourite TV show you’ll be doing it on the main TV screen itself. Internet enabled televisions are already here and I predict they’ll triumph where 3D falls flat.”

Back in the late nineties I worked tech support for a NET TV company which we thought would really catch on but never did. Perhaps it was just a decade or so too soon.

So where do you see television viewing going? Let us know.

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