About three and a half years ago I gave up watching television completely with the only exception being an occasional movie via DVD. This was not a planned initiative and required neither thought nor regrets. In fact, I gave up watching TV pretty much for the same reason I gave up smoking years earlier: tainted content.
When my brand of cigarettes started using paper thicker than a monkey’s skull, requiring constant re-lighting, and laced with more chemicals than tobacco, the taste was gone and so was I. Similarly, when television networks, in addition to regular commercial breaks, began running commercials during shows, TV lost another viewer.
I realize advertising is what pays the network’s operating costs and I can tolerate commercial breaks. They do offer a chance to go to the bathroom, get a coffee refill, and/or to change the channel or turn off the TV. However, if I’m watching a show or a movie, I don’t want to see ads or previews and schedules for other shows playing in any area of the display field. I gave up on cable and other forms of pay TV back in 1980s because the allure was commercial and censor free TV.
Speaking of the dark ages of technology, the late 1970s when video cassette recorders (VCRs) where becoming commonplace, there used to be a plethora of electronic black boxes and circuits on that market that did things that truly enhanced one’s television viewing experience. One of the simpler devices was the A/B switcher that allowed one to watch a regular (broadcast/antenna) television program while taping another coming off pay TV services.
Then there was the infamous video stabilizer, advertised as a component to enhance the picture quality of pre-recorded VHS and Beta video tapes. However, the real purpose of video stabilizers was to block copy-protection signals recorded on commercial tapes that caused picture jitter and roll. Of course, in the logical scheme of things, video stabilizers were totally unnecessary for tape copying if one used the composite A/V input and outputs instead of the 75Ω coax connectors.
Probably one of the most useful gadgets of the dark era was the commercial killer. Also teaming with a VCR, it connected between the antenna or cable feeding the VCR input. When recording programs coming off the VCR’s tuner, the device senses when a commercial segment is about to begin and creates a silent, black screen for the duration of the segment. It does this by sensing the initial fade-to-black sequence that precedes a commercial break during standard broadcasting. When the commercial segment is ending, the unit, depending on the model and manufacturer, returns the picture to the screen with a two second period of blank white screen. This enabled one to create attended recordings that omitted the commercials while creating no significant break in the video. Well, not significant in terms of the period. Today, a micro second devoid of “engaging media” is unthinkable.
Another cool aspect of the commercial killer was you did not need a VCR to derive and enjoy its benefits. Hooked up between the antenna and the TV gave one commercial-free viewing. Of course you had that period of two to four minutes of silent blank screen, depriving you of engaging content and thereby causing deep-rooted feelings of abandonment and, in extreme cases, paranoia.
At any rate, it’s unfortunate there is currently no device I know of that’s up to this same task. In the digital age, if someone comes up with a circuit that eliminates the distracting and thoroughly un-engaging distractions that appear around the perimeters of the TV screen during the main program, I would buy at least one. However, since I don’t watch TV, I won’t see the ad for it.