Sunday, November 7, 2010

Television Daze

Sometimes it's really challenging to be patient - especially in today's day and age. I can get takeout ordered and delivered, check out the game score and view the week's forecast all within half an hour and all without leaving my house. Patience may be a virtue, but today it seems a seldom-needed virtue.

And we typically don't like it when we're asked to use it.

Take, for example, our most recent appliance dilemma. Our current TV (yes, we only have one in the house - I believe this makes us an anomaly in the U.S. for our family size and income bracket) is roughly seven years old. It's a standard early 2000's model and after years of use and abuse the remote has gone AWOL. Also, it doesn't have a digital tuner and, considering how much cabinet space it takes up, it doesn't provide the nice wide screen features of the newer flat-screen models.

Additionally, it apparently has Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For the past several years the speakers have not worked properly during the colder months. It took us a few seasons to realize what was going on, but during the colder months the speakers rattle with noises of specific frequencies (think mumbling dialogue, car chases or an awesome Viper/Raider fight sequence from, say, Battlestar Galactica). Understandably, this can be quite irritating.

But then spring comes and temperatures warm up and we forget about the speaker plague of the previous four months. We tolerate the display even if we can't see the far edges and labels of the PBS program we're watching.

Oh, and we continue to pay around $12 per month to get our local affiliates (plus a handful of ot her channels that we don't really watch) since we lack the digital tuner.

Well, we are finally ready to purchase a new TV! All modern with a wide screen, working remote, digital tuner and functional speakers! We've been doing the research and it seems like our best fit would be a 32" LCD HDTV with 1080p and 120 Hz. The girls and I were in the area of the big box electronic store today so we stopped in to browse.

I had been estimating about $600 for our future purchase, based on prices from a few months ago. I had heard rumors that the prices on LCD televisions were dropping because of a glut of inventory (bad economy = slow electronic purchases). Wow - those rumors are true! I found a model with the exact features we're looking for with a high customer rating on mega-sale for only $450! Plus, with my credit and such we could do eighteen months of interest free financing.

Oh man...the temptation was there! How was I able to walk out of that store without a television?

Because appliances were rationed during WWII. Remember our oven range dilemma? We were in a pickle because ranges were in short supply during the war (not very many were being produced in the war-driven factories) so families in need of a range had to apply for one. If they were turned down then they either had to find a used model or make do without one.

So that's how I was able to say no to the television temptation. I was thinking about appliance rationing and delayed gratification and such. If you combine our Internet/television usage time I believe it roughly equates to what would have been the average usage of telephones and radios in the 1940s (and they serve the same purposes). If a new radio wasn't an option for 1940s rationers then a new television shouldn't be available to us during our rationing year.

But then I came home and did a little research. Apparently, I over-estimated the variety of appliances and such that were rationed during WWII. True, oven ranges were available only through an application process - as were automobiles, bicycles and typewriters. But that was the extent of appliance rationing. It doesn't take much effort to find War-era advertisements for new radios via Google. This all makes sense considering how much the government used radio as a tool for morale and support during the War.

So...what to do?

--Rational Mama


  1. You could just kill your TV altogether. If you have the Internet most every show is available through Hulu or live stream off the network website. DVD's can be played with the computer as well. Netflix is only 9.99 a month and that allows you to direct stream hundreds of shows as well.

  2. I do not have a big screen, HD or any other things modern people are "supposed" to have. My 20 year old TV gave up the ghost this summer and I went shopping and was shocked by the prices.

    I called around a local repair shops and found a nice old fashioned TV much like I had for less than fifty bucks. I don't need a HD TV because I can't afford the upgrade on my cable bill. Give me a regular old TV and a remote and I am a happy camper.

  3. Good feedback so far! Even though we have no intention of paying for cable (HD or otherwise) with the new TV, we'd like to have a nice quality TV because one of our favorite things to do together as a family (besides cooking, reading and playing board games)is watching TV - whether it be an actual movie (streaming from Netflix on the Wii or borrowed from the library) or a PBS documentary and such. We'd like something bigger than the laptop screen since we'll all be watching, but we've chosen a smaller model than most of our peers - partly because we have a rule that the living room will *not* be overshadowed by a television. This smaller size allows us to still use the media armoir we have so we can close the doors on the TV when not in use.

  4. Okay, I totally would've broken down and made "just one exception." HA HA! I'm a total permitter. Can you tell? Anyway, I think you have the right tv in mind for your family. I'm with you on the screen size. We wanted something that all of us could see from our comfy old couch. During the holidays we all watch old holiday movies together. We also fancy us some KU basketball, so we felt okay with wanting a flat-screen. It is so frustrating when you can't see part of a show (or the score of a game) becuase "they" format everything for widescreens nowadays! I still need to try hulu so we can save one the cable bill!

  5. Hi, Michelle. A couple comments from a fellow penny pincher for when you do decide to buy... at 32" you won't be able to see the difference between 1080p and 720p from across the room, so unless you plan to also use this TV as a computer monitor (sitting up close), paying extra for the maximum resolution will not be worth your while.

    However, you *will* be able to see the difference between LED backlight and fluorescent backlight on your electric bill. If you can afford an LED backlit model, it will pay off the price difference in just a few months, and it will last longer and be flicker-free. I bought a 32" fluorescent-backlit model just months before the LED-backlit TVs came on the market, and I've been kicking myself since... ours uses 50 to 100 Watts, depending on whether we have the backlight at 50% or 100% -- in other words, essentially all of its power consumption is the backlight!

    Congratulations on having such patient kids! :-)