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Issue Date: July 2012


Going Digital


George Bilgere

A few summers ago, the old days of analog TV came to an end. The TV watchers of America were informed that the world they'd grown up in was about to change.

Those of us whose homes still sported that most iconic symbol of 20th-century mass communication, the rooftop television antenna, had no choice but to get with the program. The birds would have to find another place to perch. One day the analog signal just stopped, and all I could see on my trusty old TV was a blizzard of snow.

So, like everyone else who didn't already have a dish or cable, I went out and bought a nifty little digital converter box, hooked it up to my set, and voilà: I had entered the digital age. Everything seemed sharper: the pores on Romona Robinson's nose, the midges swarming into Travis Hafner's ears. Dick Goddard had never looked so — well, wrinkled. It was breathtaking.

It was so easy I tried connecting the converter box to my blender. It worked beautifully. Suddenly, I was making high-definition digital margaritas for my friends. High-def daiquiris with incredible resolution. There's something about a high-definition buzz that makes every non-digital, analog drinking experience seem like a waste of time.

I hooked it up to the toilet. It was easy. I simply connected the cables to the inputs on the back of the commode. Incredible. I realized I'd never really experienced my toilet before. Even the simple act of flushing suddenly had a rich, digitized, surround-sound believability and a deep bass response that made me look forward to using the toilet again soon.

I tried plugging the converter box into my refrigerator. Instant improvement. The carrots and celery looked almost uncannily crisp. The mold on the pierogies I'd brought home from Sokolowski's a month earlier was a dazzling, digital green. A half-eaten Hormel wiener I'd put in there a few weeks earlier had a pale pink wiener color that I'd never noticed on any wiener before.

Then, just for fun, I hooked the digital converter box into the main power supply to my modest home in Cleveland Heights. Astonishing. The moment I flipped the switch, the house took on a level of detail and resolution that made all the analog houses on the block look utterly drab.

The neighbors would pause as they walked by.

"What did you do to your house?" they asked. "Paint it? Throw on some vinyl siding?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out," I said with a wink. I wasn't giving away any secrets.

And then, very discreetly, I attached the converter box to my wife. My wife is a good-looking, analog woman. She still has a reasonably high level of detail and resolution, even at her age. But her colors, I have to admit, have faded a little bit. She's just started taking on this kind of flat, two-dimensional quality.

I hooked the little inputs into her ears. I told her it was a new kind of iPod. The moment she turned it on, I was looking at an all-digital, high-definition wife. Her hair had noticeably better resolution. There was a crisp, lifelike vitality to her thighs that I'd never seen before. Her voice, instead of coming to me in mono, now had a beautiful surround-sound richness. I sat back on the couch and stared at her for the whole afternoon. It didn't matter what she was doing. Reading, cooking, washing the dishes. Flossing her teeth. It was just fun to watch her.

I felt ridiculous for having waited so long to go digital. I'm not even going to talk about what happened that night in bed. Let me just say it had never seemed so real, so much like actually being there. Believe me — once you've gone digital, there's no going back.

So I was happy in my digitized world. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when I saw my friend's new smartphone. It has a feature called a Retina display, which means the screen has something like 350 pixels per square inch. That's some serious pixels. In fact, his screen has 150 more pixels per square inch than reality does. Even my newly digitized wife was looking a little dull in comparison.

To make matters worse, I went to see The Avengers, the superhero flick filmed right here in Cleveland. Amazing. Not only was I seeing it on a screen filled with zillions of pixels, I was hearing it on 68 channels of Spectra Vision Dolbyized sound — and all this in 3-D!

I walked out of the theater into the parking lot. Reality had never looked so old-fashioned.

Once the bright boys in Silicon Valley can take 3-D glasses with Retina display and Spectra Vision Dolbyized sound out of the theater and into the actual world, I'll camp out all night to get the first pair. Because you know what? If all those pixels can make Cleveland look like New York, imagine what they'll do for my wife!


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