That’s a line from one of my favorites movies, Back to the Future, during the scene where Marty McFly almost has dinner with his mother and grandparents. If there ever was a commentary on consumerism, this is near the top of my list:
Lorraine Baines: Our first television. Dad just picked it up today. Do you have a television?
Marty: Well, yeah, you know, we have… two of ’em.
Milton: Wow! You must be rich!
The joke, of course, is that thirty years in Marty’s past, it’d be ridiculous to think that people could afford two televisions. And I think it was about a year after the movie came out that my sister and I both got a black-and-white set for Christmas. (That TV was cool, not just because it was mine, but because if I plugged in the Nintendo and set it to Channel 2, the TV became a police scanner. I am not making this up.) Having a TV in my room set me free from watching whatever my parents and sister wanted to watch. As the youngest, I finally had a little bit of power.
Now in 2010 and at age 34, I have all the power in the world, at least as far as TV is concerned. We hooked up a Mac Mini to a projector ($900 used), and we blast the image onto a $75 screen. We can watch anything online, anything in the iTunes store, anything on Netflix, etc. etc.
But I think I take it for granted that with the prevalence of DVRs and high bandwidth, each of us can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. I know objectively that’s not the case. Not everybody will elect for super-high bandwidth, or even a DVR from the cable company. Those things cost extra, and some people will undoubtedly find them to cost more than they’re worth.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that using a projector in your home is rare. People are much more likely to spring for one flat-panel TV in the main viewing area. But that begs the question: what do the kids use in their rooms? I’m especially curious to find out if they forgo traditional TVs entirely and just watch stuff on their computers.
So, if you wouldn’t mind helping me escape from the echo chamber of cutting-edge entertainment technology, could you help me with a little survey? Especially if you have kids in the house, I’d like to know the following:
If you do not see a survey above, click here.
Published or updated March 30, 2010.