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Did change in the user interface change television?

A few days ago, I posted about Wired's interview with Jon Stewart. Obviously, I found the interview interesting, because I'm still thinking about it.

At one point they talk about how some cable shows are very good, and are challenging the notion that network television is a higher quality than cable. Well, I'm a geek, so I'd have to agree with that. The few shows I regularly watch are on cable (The Daily Show, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica).

Stewart says that people pay attention to how good a show is, not the channel number. This is where the geek in me kicks in, and I start thinking "it's all about the interface! " If you have to go through the channels sequentially and physically, with a dial, 9 seems very distant from 44.

When I was a kid, our TV had two dials: one for major networks (2-13) and one for everything else. Then came the remote control. It didn't just create the couch potato, it helped prime us for quality cable shows. I'm guessing that it wasn't the remote controlling that was important, but the number pad. Conceptually, this put all the channels right next to each other. Here in San Francisco, Comedy Central is on 63. That's just two button "clicks"; same number of steps needed to get to channel 13, a network channel. Compare that to turning the main dial to "U", and then turning the secondary dial to 63.

Just some thoughts.


you used a dial, and now have infra red, but why does it have to stop there? remote controls should be so 1990 to us by now... i hardly ever watch tv, but when i do, i normally have to go through all channels sequentially to find something suitable to watch... of course, if i spend more time with tv, i might find some "favorite" channels--i normally remember the channel to espn :) ... cable tv has descriptions for shows.. so what if I could just come to the tube and say "tv, basketball" or chess, or lamb chops, or geek (subtitute word) and then get a listing to choose from?

just as i was typing this, i decided to look up "voice operated remote" and came up with http://www.innotechsystems.com/voicefire.htm; it's not enough if I _have_ to know what _channel_ i want to go to, because the only real benefit becomes that my tv remote can be lost under the couch, and I don't have to worry any more

our user experience on the web should translate to the the other viewports that we deal with in "regular" life... i am all for going the other way around... television changing the user interface--peaople's wishes for alternative user experiences influencing the design process; tv as it is today is that old fat client, that assumes all the intelligence and allows you to browse content in a rigid predefined manner, and of course, the powers that be (who hate change) will want it to remain the same for as long as it _can_


I really hate how the "Station Identification" symbols seems to be taking more and more real estate of the screen, even to the point of having animation along the bottom touting new shows.

In the beginning, it wasn't too bad since the symbols would appear and then fade out, but they seem to be staying longer and longer, and in some cases, I don't think they ever go away.

Originally, Station Identification was something that was enforced by the FCC, making sure that stations did it(tv once an hour). But technology has given way to chroma keying in the station identification on a continual basis.

I hate the continual watermark attacting my attention away from the plot. Oh, it's to protect against piracy they say, so that the shows can't be re-broadcast on another channel. Well, for the most part, the average user is just watching the show with maybe timeshifting it with a DVR, not passing it on to friends. They stations have just decided to exploit the technology to keep the ever present identification in the user's face, Branding Branding Branding... Argh!

We shrug our shoulders and keep our eyes glued to the tube, accepting the change grudingly because we don't want to miss the latest episode of our favorite series.

It's time for the FCC to regulate the opposite of the station identification, sure keep the once an hour, but limit how long they can display it.

Or just pick up a nice book, That interface remains fairly constant.