Taking Points Off For Not Catering To The Well-Off

I hesitate to even make this post, lest it should activate sleeping evil elsewhere, but this is something that’s been annoying me for a while. I was just reading SlashGear’s post on the Archos 13 ultraportable and amongst the things they’re not pleased about is the lack of HDMI port. This is something Laptop Mag dings devices for, too. And it drives me up the wall. Because not everyone has a television that accepts HDMI input. What I miss is the S-Video port, which everyone seems to have abandoned.

Remember back in February when  people were busy crowing about the fact that some study claimed two-thirds of Americans had an HDTV and those who didn’t were likely to buy one soon? I didn’t believe the study, and I was happy to see someone else disagreeing with it, too1. The main reason why I didn’t believe that study is simply that HDTVs are expensive. Yes, plenty of people buy crap they don’t need simply because it’s newer, bigger, better. But plenty of people –especially now — aren’t buying crap they don’t need if their current device works perfectly fine.

You can still get non HDTVs with big screens for less money. And people who have cable or satellite are still doing fine with their older models. The people who buy new laptops or phones or other media devices are not automatically the people who buy HDTVs. I’m not. I have no reason to. Except none of these damned devices will output with anything but HDMI, therefore I can’t use them with my TV. That’s just wonderful2.

How many tech journalists and bloggers consider this? I haven’t seen many do so. I’ve seen so many journalists write off technology because they think it’s not useful when compared to better stuff, but they’re not taking into account that not everyone can afford new, expensive things all the time. Like MP3 players. How many times have I heard: “well, you don’t need one because you can play music on your phone.” Hello! Some phones. Not all. And can I point out that the non-smartphone market is way, way bigger than the smartphone market? And that smartphones don’t tend to have as much memory as MP3 players? And that not every device is made for the over-connected, spendthrift adult?

I realize that the view from the tech world is that everyone has, should have, wants, or should want the newest, bestest things. Not everyone does and not everyone can afford them. And thus the magazines and blogs and sites we produce end up just catering to a narrow audience who, by the way, is overly filled with the kind of jerks that populate the Gizmodo comment threads and not, say, thoughtful consumers who have to take a wider range of factors into consideration, including price and need.

It’s getting to the point where every time I hear someone mention the lack of HDMI a a negative or any other similar sentiment I want to shake them by the collar. Which is not good and professional behavior. So, I won’t do it. But still. Stop it, people.

  1. Research Rants points out that non-tech savvy people probably don’t understand that just because the TV station tells them that they’re broadcasting in HD that doesn’t mean they actually have an HD set. This strikes me as very possible. []
  2. In the end I just use my desktop, which has a handy S-Video port. Yes, if I want to output audio I have to run a separate cable. Um, who cares? it’s not as if cables are like creeping death or something. []
  • Thank you so much for saying this! These assumptions really get to me after awhile and make me uninterested in reading tech blogs and reviews, even though I really want to know about what’s new.

  • Cosigned, so much. So many tech reviewers suck at imagining a customer who is someone other than the reviewer or the reviewer’s best friend. Remember the first time PC Magazine reviewed netbooks? They were all like “the important things are having a big hard drive, big keyboard, and running photoshop really well.” And based on that they basically trashed the whole category…there was no sense of trying to figure out who actually wants a netbook and why, and then reviewing based on that.

  • veejane

    OMG, does this mean I can sic you on my local Fox station, which broadcasts in wide-screen (presumably, because that’s what HDTVs are built for)? My dull, ordinary TV can’t fit the whole thing onto the screen, and instead of giving be black stripes at top and bottom, I just get a pan-and-scan version with the sides cut off.

    Not even! Pan-and-scan actually scans, and tries to show the most important stuff! Fox-o-vision just crops whatever’s on the sides, and TV shows slowly become incomprehensible.

    Dull, ordinary TVs still work! With every channel in my cable lineup except Fox.

    • This bugs me so much! But it’s not just one station or one network. I can’t even see the entire network bug in the corner anymore! Or people’s full names in the credits, on Lost, for example.

      If they start cutting off subtitles on anything, I’m going to scream.

  • I’m usually way behind on the tech curve (e.g. never owned a laptop and my recent dabbling in a cell phone didn’t enchant me), and I’m dirt poor and the only live television I’ve watched over the past decade has been presidential debates. Even so, I see Best Buy offering 19″ LCD HDTV for as low as $139, and that strikes me as just about what a television should cost. They haven’t hooked me yet, but I wouldn’t be morose if my current TV died tomorrow. And I have to suspect that it’s even more of a lure for people who are using their televisions for more than PS2 games.

    • K T Bradford

      I like a big TV, and my current one is around 30 or 32-inches. For that size you have to pay a lot more if you’re going for an HD LCD. I think that for people who don’t mind a smaller set, LCDs are a good way to go if their budget is modest. But so many people want a bigger screen, and as you go up in size, the prices get way more ridiculous.

      I have a 27″ monitor right now. If my TV is smaller than that, what is the point?

      • yeah… for that size(32), you have to spend $300-$400. ;)

        Most of the gadgets that have do/don’t have HDMI ports cost around…. ??? ($300?)

        Gadget Porn is gadget porn. It’s all about what port fits into what slot, etc etc. Don’t hate a scorpian for being a scorpian.

        Should one resent Apple for constantly trying to sell you new/better/shinier plastic crap that replaces your current plastic crap? Perhaps. But gadget porn that dings a gadget because it doesn’t have state of the art slots and ports seems like a minor sin, compared to, say… The ipad.

        Luv you dear.

        • K T Bradford

          If I cared more about TV then I suppose $300 – $400 wouldn’t seem so much. But from my perspective, I’m like: I have a working TV, it is big, and it shows me moving images. What do I need HD for? And again, my monitor is almost that big, did NOT cost me $400, and hooks into my computer. so… yeah.

          And hey, i totally understand gadget porn. I roll in it, yay. I’m just saying, don’t hate on devices that aren’t for the well-off, or don’t cater to specific, yet unimportant segments of those well-off people.

          then again, I don’t see enough people dinging the iPad for not have HDMI output options when almost every Tegra 2 tablet does. jesus, ipad.

  • After my partner (who is deaf) and I got an HDTV, we discovered that HDMI doesn’t transmit closed caption information. Because of course new technologies are always better in every way, and accommodating disabilities isn’t important.

    (I’m not deaf but I have enough trouble sorting speech from noise in most movies that I vastly prefer captions myself.)

    • K T Bradford

      ugh, accessibility fail. Is there any way around that?

      • We play DVDs with closed captions through a Mac Mini attached to the HDMI port. (The Mac Mini has its own caption decoding software.)

        Rather expensive solution unfortunately.

        I gather that when you watch TV via a cable or satellite box the caption decoding happens there.

        • I don’t know the specifics about captions and HD, but here’s an interesting data point at least.

          My friends got a new, swanky Tivo and gave me their old one. You can transfer recorded shows from Tivo to Tivo. But when I get a show from their Tivo, the captions come out as near-gibberish. It _seems_ like their Tivo is recording and/or encoding them differently, and my tivo and/or television can’t quite interpret them.

          The captions display fine on their HD television. And I’ve noticed different fonts for different shows, which is an interesting change. (I don’t know if I like it, but it’s interesting.)

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