We all make mistakes. I made a big one in June 2003.
For months I was obsessing (maybe even a bit of physical drooling) over what I saw on the floor of the Savannah Best Buy store. There laid two of the most beautiful, wondrous television screens my eyes had ever seen.
As I would visit the store at least three times a week, I came to experience a new technology called high definition. As I gazed onto the screen, it was like looking outside through a window. Amazing colors and clarity.
The TVs were different than anything I had ever seen: Flat, looking more like a picture you could hang on a wall (I later found out you could). One was described as 32 inches, which made my current 25-inch TV seem tiny. The other was a gigantic 42 inches.
I must have one of these, I chanted. But wait … is that price for real?
The 32-inch Sony plasma high definition TV was listed at $6,200. The 42-inch at $7,800.
But about that time, my wife and I were in the process of selling our first home and purchasing another in a nearby community. The real estate market for selling was great and our house sold for more money than we expected.
In what I look back as either the biggest con job in the world, or the greatest showing of love by a spouse, I somehow talked my wife into allowing me to buy one of the those expensive televisions.
Here was my pitch: “Honey, did you know that we are getting about $20,000 more with the sale of the house than I thought?” She was pleasantly surprised. I then used that surplus to generously suggest we start out in a new house with all new appliances: a refrigerator, washer and dryer … hey maybe even some new clothes. We need to look good in our new home.
Let’s go on a shopping spree, and oh, by the way, there’s this new technology called high definition which will forever change the way we watch television, and I have worked so hard for this, blah blah blah, taking care of the family, blah blah blah, and I’ve always been good with our money, blah blah blah.
The next thing I know, I got the OK and laid down almost $9,000 for a freakin TV! Of course I had to go with the 42-inch, and because it was new technology and had only a 90-day warranty, for the one and only time in my life I spent an additional $800 for an extended five-year warranty. Taxes and delivery got it to that outrageous amount.
But, wait, there’s more!
A high definition TV is only as good as its programming. In June 2003, that programming was limited. In fact, I had to switch from my cable provider to DirectTV because they were the only ones offering HD programming at the time.
For those old enough to remember, satellite companies used to make you buy the physical equipment like the satellite dish. If I remember correctly, the dish was $300, and I had to buy an HD receiver for an additional $500, plus pay an extra $15 per month just to receive the HD channels, as well as being locked into a two-year contract.
All that for about a dozen HD channels.
But boy were those channels special, and for a few years we were the envy of our friends and neighbors, who we would invite over to watch that glorious HD television.
Sadly for us, the high definition TVs dropped in price over time, and everyone could buy one. We were no longer privileged. That Sony TV, by the way, lasted just a little beyond the five-year warranty.
What’s the point of this story, other than to humiliate myself in public over my poor choices in life?
For one thing, as I mentioned in my introductory column a few weeks back, these are good times when it comes to technology. Prices on devices (hundreds of times better than 20 years ago) are at record lows and accessible to all. Thankfully no one will be tempted to spend $9,000 on a TV ever again.
Secondly, a couple of years ago, the industry touted the next big thing for TVs: The 4K television. And while millions of people rushed out to buy them, despite hardly any 4K programming available, this time it was more affordable.
But even today, many are still waiting for that 4K programming to be more common. You’ve got the fancy TV, but outside of a few 4K shows on Internet-based networks, you’re still stuck with that boring early 2000s-circa high definition picture.
Wait. I think I’m having a bad case of déjà vu.
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