Why Grandma Sandy and Aunt Roz don't want an HDTV for Christmas

Why Grandma Sandy and Aunt Roz don't want an HDTV for Christmas

Summary: Answer: Rectangular peg, Square Hole.With the prices of HDTV's plummeting, one would think that people would be rushing to buy new sets, particularly with the analog TV mass-extinction event coming in February.

TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility


Answer: Rectangular peg, Square Hole.

With the prices of HDTV's plummeting, one would think that people would be rushing to buy new sets, particularly with the analog TV mass-extinction event coming in February. But the reality is, many people have no intention of replacing their TV sets, preferring to delay the inevitable using a cheap converter box or maintain their existing Cable and DBS Satellite subscriptions -- and the economy is not the only factor involved.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

This last weekend, I independently discovered a market segment of consumers which economic times aside, would still not choose to upgrade their sets. I'm talking about older consumers or people who love their furniture.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I discussed the HDTV transition with my Aunt Roz, a retired ophthalmologist, and my mother-in-law Sandy, who is a semi-retired real estate agent. Roz lives in a hi-rise apartment in New York City and Sandy lives in a condo development in the New Jersey 'burbs. Both have nice homes which they are comfortable with, and have an emotional attachment to their living room furniture, which 15-20 years ago they spent a lot of money on.  What exactly does this have to do with HDTV adoption? Everything.

See, it all has to do with form factor. Sure, HDTVs are flat, are much less heavier than their analog counterparts, and have the great picture and sound and all that stuff. However, many of them don't -fit- in old style TV cabinets. A lot of people, like my Aunt Roz and my mother-in-law don't want an empty hole sitting in their cabinet or want to re-arrange their living room, let alone drill holes in the wall to mount an LCD bracket. Some of these consumers actually went through the trouble to flush mount these custom-built cabinets into the wall space. And apparently, it's not that easy to find wide-screen HDTVs that will horizontally match the dimensions of a lot of these older cabinets -- usually that were designed to accommodate an analog set with a diagonal picture width of 32" or 36" or 37".

This is a pain in the ass, because manufacturers are phasing out the smaller sets in favor of the larger sets.  And even when you -do- find a set that can fit in an older enclosure, many older consumers (rightly) perceive that a replacement 16:9 set that would fit in their old cabinet is actually less viewing area than their old 4:3 set -- which if you think about it, is a valid concern. They'd need a much larger cabinet to accommodate a 16:9 TV that would give them the viewing area for that old Matlock episode that showed on their old set.

There are of course a number of ways the industry needs to approach this, although I'm not sure if it's willing to go through the hassle. One might be to manufacture HDTV sets that fit the exact form factor of traditional enclosures -- where the screen size is 16:9, but the device is 4:3, using the unused screen space for stuff like snap-on decorative templates or maybe even flat speakers.

It might be a good idea to create these smaller HDTV's in a modular form that could be dual-purposed to act as either cabinet filler or computer monitor -- as most people will not want a screen greater than 32" or even 37" on their desktops. The same set that is sold with a standardized "Fitting Template" that contains additional speakers could also be sold sans-template as a PC monitor. Considering that DVI output is signal compatible with HDMI without requiring expensive converters, and it's a foregone conclusion that DVI on PCs will eventually be abandoned for HDMI, it's probably not a bad idea.

Do you have a family member resisting HDTV adoption because of their cabinets? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Other reasons

    The simple fact of the matter is that Aunts and Grandmas just don't see any visual improvements in HDTV. There's zero added value for them. There's a technology gap between my generation and my Aunt's generation and an even larger one between mine and my Grandmother's generation. My Grandmother doesn't even use a VCR and will not even accept a free DVD player. All of her and my Aunt's devices have a flashing 12:00 display on them. Multiple remotes is too confusing for them and even a universal remote is too confusing. It's hard for us, in our generation, to comprehend that someone could NOT see the spectacular visual improvement in HDTV over SD, but it's true... they just don't see it.
    Software Architect 1982
    • True

      My In-laws aren't going to replace their TV in the living room due to the aforementioned cabinet issue, but they -DID- replace the TV in their bedroom, which sits on a cart. However, my Father-in-law swears that he can't tell the difference between HD programming with his Digital Cable over SD programming. Like you, I found this hard to believe when I showed him identical SD and 1080i/720p programming, but he says he doesn't see it.
      • He may not be able to.

        As you age (much to my chagrin), some of the senses are the first to go. My Eyesight, while better than most, has still declined over the last ten years. I can still see the difference between HD and SD, but my wife has NEVER been able to tell the difference.

        Plus, as you state in your article, we have an entertainment system that is SUPPOSED to hold up to a 36" TV (old style). We have a 4:3 format CRT HD (Sanyo) that is a 32" screen, but won't fit into the 36" spot, due to the size of the Sanyo box. This means that if we get one of the new LCD's, we'll have to move the Sanyo into the BACK room where my computer is.

        Now I ain't gonna complain about that, but my daughter, who watches TV mainly in that room, isn't happy at all :) . . .
      • So what?

        I happen to be older myself (53). I can see a difference in HDTV, but the fact is, I don't care. There's only so much increased pleasure one can get out of a better picture. And, frankly, it's not much. I'd much rather watch an excellent movie on a crappy TV than crappy television shows on cool whizbang HDTV.
        • absolutely, I second that (NT)

          no text
        • HD

          It is kinda disconcerting to see each pimple and poc hole on my favorite actresses faces now-a-days.. not to mention each and every hair on their.. arms.
          I don't even notice That much detail on a person standing right in front of me ! Course, I don't do closeups on them, either.
          To me, HD is 6 of one, half dozen of another.
          The prices, cabinet fitting issues, cheaply built sets that are Not going to last as long as my old Zenith SD CRT, and oftentimes too sharp of a view of someones features onscreen - really don't jive well with spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to see what I already to see with my current SD CRT TV.
          And now I sound like an office goober with all the abbreviations and acronyms :(
          • HD pimples, acne & hair

            does this mean the return of pancake makeup?
            Rock Johny
          • No, you sound like...

            All the people that have been averse to new technology in the past.

            Horseless carriage? My horse knows the way home.

            If god meant us to fly, we'd have wings.

            Who needs a phone ringing all the time... you just have to answer it.

            Who needs TV? I've got radio.

            Who needs FM? I've got AM.

            Color TV? Most of my shows are in black and white.

            Garage door opener? I'm not that lazy.

            Remote control of your TV? I can get up to change the channel.

            Computer? I've got a typewriter.

            Cell phone???!?!?!!!!
        • You can have it all!

          How about watching excellent movies on a cool whizbang HDTV with perfect sound to boot!

          This isn't an either or thing. This is a get exactly what you want, when you want it thing. With DVRs, Netflix, On Demand movies and shows, a gazillion cable channels, and broadcast networks, you never have to watch something you think is crappy ever.
        • I agree age has little to do

          I am 40, with sight 20/20 (I can read newsprint 2 or more meters away) and so sensitive that I get a headache if a CRT monitor refresh rate is set to less than 80 Hertz (I can see the blinking).

          I have an HDTV as sound is way better and Blue Ray movies more enjoyable. Plus it's an absulute must have for PS3 console gaming.

          Still I don't see the big fuss about HDTV for TV programming, specially when it comes compressed from the cable company.

          In objective terms I can see the difference, in subjective terms it really makes no difference to me ...

          ...or actually it does but the other way around. Sometimes HD programming looks "fake" as things are crisper and more defined than what you can usually see with the naked eye which has some blur due to the natural stereoscopic vision. Your brain composes the image from two superimposed images, one per eye, plus it also stitches them over time.

          In that regard it may actually be a matter of age as we are used to see something certain way and when it looks different it looks "odd".
        • HD makes sports easier to watch

          My 83 year old dad can follow the ball a lot better when watching sports, esp. hockey on a HD screen.
          Rock Johny
        • Amen to that

          A good picture is nice, but a good script of a good story portrayed with good acting beats it hands down every time.

          Too much TV and movie money goes into whiz-bang and big stars these days. They should spend it on finding new writers who can tell new stories with imagination and style.
      • I can't too

        To sell blue ray DVD players they have special shows in the shops were the screen is some time split in 2 parts: left is SD and right is HD.
        I am sorry, but I can barely see the difference!
        In fact to see it I have to be very close to the screen, which does not make any sense.
        I am 47 and wear glasses for quite 40 years now, however I don't think I have real problems with my vision.
        • Well, there's something wrong

          Either the demo is bad, or your eyes are!

          Get 'em checked!!!
      • digital age means 'furniture' downsizing

        Not only does a flatscreen attached to the wall take up less space; with movies & songs, even photos moving to Hard Drives on computers and Ipods, there simply is no more need for the accompanying storage space needed in old entertainment centers unless you're often playing vinyl.

        I kind of like the idea of less horizontal surfaces for dust to settle in my house and can foresee a general acceptance of a 'less is more' attitude when furnishing a house that new technology has enabled. I like the swedish minimalist style. My wife is from Sweden and she is amazed at how 'heavy' American furniture is. Exposure to their style has widened my taste and I love the idea of slimming down the living room and gaining living space in the process.
        Rock Johny
      • Why We Don't Want Hi Def

        As you get older,your eyesight gets worse.It doesn't get so bad that I can notice it but others can.If I can't tell the difference,why sell me me a pink shirt when I am color blind? Do you get the picture here? I know its minor but it is valid.You can then do away with $200.00 cable bills which is what this is all about anyway isn't it?
    • Blind & stupid?

      YOU are foolish; to be polite!

      I'm also in my golden years and my clocks are dead on! I value "High end" digital/optical audio and other cutting edge technologies!

      The differences you allude to are somewhat deeper than your apparent very shallow observations.

      I and others in my age group find the programing being delivered by nearly ALL the delivery methods today to be pure CRAP! If not infantile, it's vulgar, shallow and some down right stupid! (Not to mention DARK)

      There is NO advantage to watching this bilge in high definition spectacular brilliance. Period.

      FYI: The only broadcast content I find desirable is also available on satellite "C" band. I'm seriously considering buying a C band decoder "Kit" and building my own dish. The rest of the 1000 channels of pure manure can kiss my analog TV.
      • I couldn't agree more.

        I'm a "sixty-something" who enjoys the latest technologies...and there aren't any flashing 12:00s on any of my A/V equipment either. But the drivel being broadcast these days is pitiful.

        My wife and I were chosen to be a Nielsen Family for a month, quite a few years ago. And this was BEFORE the latest rash of "reality TV" was polluting the airwaves. There is NOTHING more contrived than "reality TV"...what a waste of airspace!

        Anyway, we watch PBS, news shows and sports almost exclusively on cable TV. The other 60 plus channels are rarely ever tuned in, so our Nielsen book was not very complete when we returned it after a month. In the comments section of the form I quoted Newton Minnow (for those of you too young to know what I am referring to...look him up). Haven't heard from Nielsen since!

        I also am in the category of having a custom made wall unit, which was designed around a CRT TV, audio, DVD, VCR (2) and cable box system about six years ago. A Mitsubishi 40 inch LCD is the biggest unit that it will hold, but that is fine with us. What with the cost of the wall unit being well into the five figure range, getting something else to hold a larger (and frankly un-needed) set is out of the question. But until the 32 inch CRT that is in there dies, the HDTV is only a wish.
    • harder to use & old one still works

      While money is an issue, and can be a big one, it's more that people (from that generation especially)feel it's stupid to throw away a perfectly good and costly item to buy a more costly replacement that is not going to last as long and is very difficult for them to use.
  • It isnt the money

    [b]"In addition, one could also just buy an HDTV that fits horizontally. The screen will be almost as tall as the original. Big deal if there is a gap above it."[/b]

    Yeah, try telling that to a 70 year old.

    [b]"If one is on a limited budget, one cannot be picky about the appearance of certain things. Get over it or spend the money."[/b]

    It isn't the money. They just don't like the way it looks.