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I remember when television sets had doors to hide them away. When some programming was a little girl next to a test card for as long as some sitcom seasons. When regional accents in programmes were as welcome as a Page Three girl in a broadsheet. Prelapsarian days when television went to sleep at night, nestled in a blanket of noisy snow.
Now there is no escaping television. It's in several rooms in many of our homes, from lounge, to bedroom, to kitchen and spare sets for the kid's bedrooms. It's on mobiles, computers, in pubs, train stations, and chip shops. It's awake and screaming 24/7. While some people turn their noses up at the vacuousness of it all, it has permeated every crevice of life, save for those who refuse to buy a TV licence.
What started as a black and white experience has morphed into colour, digital and High- Definition as though the picture were continually honed by a master sharpener to one of such highly defined pixels that warning labels will have to be attached declaring the possibility of cutting yourself on the sharpness.
This is because some bright spark discovered digital television, a different way of broadcasting that means where once we had five channels, we can now have 5000 ? from BBC1 to The God Channel, because it all fits on a broadcast wavelength with hexadecimal code. And even for those who complain 'there's never anything good on', the choices keep multiplying, digitally.
The government, in its wisdom, has decided that we all need to be digitalised and rather than wait for analogue to die a natural death, it's set about trying to convert the faithless (Analoguists) to its new religion (Digit-Al) much the same way the Spanish Inquisition dealt with heresy. This new ecclesiastical tribunal Digital UK has been set up to ensure all adhere to the new Digit-Al faith or forever live in blackness. Analogue Apocalypse in 2012.
Digital UK's ('Not-for-profit', they scream. We only want to help) evangelical approach has now crowded our screens on all channels. It involves a cute animated robot built by the UK's most beloved animator Nick Park and voiced by the most-watched actor Matt Lucas to convince us of the one true way. The annoying little critter is called Digit-Al (geddit? Digit-Al?), who haunts non-BBC airwaves when they haven't sold any adverts. He is creepily similar to the Smash potato robots. It's going to pay me to get ready for Digital-Al says in his hermeneutic manner.
A branch of the new digital religion run by the god-unto-themselves British Broadcasting Corporation continues analogue expurgation movements with its own 'tough love' campaign, where heretics are publically shamed into accepting Digit-Al (although the BBC as a separate sect doesn't acknowledge the tin-god). After constant sermons I recently allowed myself to be dragged into the digital TV Age by my cathode ray tubes. However, I feel like a Marranos in 14th century Spain; tortured by scenes of the 'one true way' and threatened with a date for analogue Armageddon. I relented and allowed my soul to be saved.
I sit now, Sky remote in hand with 898 clicks at the ready. From 101 to 999 there's something to see, if only a notice that I've only subscribed the Sky Pauper? package and in order to see the semi-good stuff I'll have to up the ante to the Sky Serf Class? package.
I consider myself fortunate however, because before I had only 4.5 channels from which to choose (five! was never full signal strength and the .5 that reached me was subject to the vagaries of British weather). I have digital satellite strength that gives five! a steroidal signal. I now can watch (or not) the offerings of BBC 3 and 4 and multiples of ITV and Channel 4, which, BS (Before Sky), were dangled in front of me, taunting me with its alleged brilliance, but unobtainable unless I converted to the new faith. Having been raised in the analogue ministry and making a career out of its benefits, I held back on religious grounds despite the Apocalypse date set by the government, until I broke.
I remember the days when you paid your TV licence and you got your programmes, (although I still feel it should have included all BBC books and a weekly copy of the Radio Times, because my licence money and yours pays for all the information in them).
When the rules were changed in the middle of the game and the hedonistic idolatry of digital infected the country, we still had to pay for BBC analogue programmes while being denied the better ones on the digital platform, simply because we refused to acknowledge the new god of Hexadecimal. And, by following the old faith, we were cast into Limbo, until cleansed of all analogue sins and willing to accept the new god.
And still they taunt us. Episodes of 'tough love' adverts, with friends and family united to convince you to change from your analogue sins and embrace the new Digital religion, followed by a friendly robot (Digit-Al I think), stopping you from throwing out Mum's old set.
For most it makes for happy times. But, ever the heretic, despite my reluctant conversion, I must complain about digital TV, for it has taken 3 seconds out of my life. That is the price we all pay.
It was only when watching The Weakest Link on digital downstairs that I discovered it ? upstairs was my daughter's un-digitised TV sucking in that old analogue signal like a steam-powered train. The contestant's answers (Thor!) were coming down the stairwell to me while Anne was still asking the digitised question (In Norwegian mythology which God is depicted holding a hammer?). My analogue TV, far from the antique the government and broadcasters would have me believe, was actually speedier than digital. Digit-Al never mentions that in his propaganda broadcasts.
Analogue faster than the speed of digital sound? How could that happen? Is it time travel?
In this day of faster is better, give me more gigabytes broadband, I have proved that digital is performing slower than analogue sound.
And that's not the only deficiency I've found. As someone who actually has 'watched' entire tennis matches on Ceefax, I find a more pronounced slowness when I push my red button now. It is then that I enter the blue-grey ether that Doctor Who travels through until my digital system whips up enough hamster power to find the information I want ? anywhere from 15 to 18 seconds.
It is becoming irritating now watching the 'loading' dot.dot.dot while some slow hexadecimal code walks, not runs down a hallway and fetches the precise bit of information I'm requesting from the digital warehouse, turns slowly, brews a tea, has two sips and then walks back to my enhanced digital TV and projects it for me. No, that's not what I wanted. I mean the regional forecast; scroll down, select. Off the new hexadecimal code goes again, down the hallway, a few sips on the tea, grabs the regional and ambles back, stopping to re-tie its hexadecimal laces for health and safety reasons, and then puts it in-vision.
We are being sold the future as digital; cars, kitchen appliances, cameras, TV, radio, supermarkets. But the future is sluggish. The future is not performing. There is no instant gratification that is always offered in the morality plays broadcast to get us to convert. I want to know why. We are told it is the land of plenty, more channels, more choice, but it actually is adding to the couch potato time of New Age digitised viewers.
What blasphemy! Soon the white vans charged with surveillance of the faithful and punishment of transgressors will catch up with me for speaking out about the Emperor's new clothes. I may be named and shamed for doubting the new technology and face the wrath of Digit-Al.
And I shall say to him: "Oi! I want the three seconds I've given to digital returned to me, with interest."