standard TV in the 21st Century


In the 1950s, there was a box. It was more of a cabinet with a convex piece of glass prominently front and center. Well, not quite center. It was usually off to the left, leaving the right side free to house a couple of knobs, and maybe a button. The whole thing sat on the floor like a piece of wooden furniture. You cleaned it with Pledge, or the 1950s equivalent. It had a single, and sometimes double antenna sprouting from the top of it, like a set of alien ears.

Amazingly, television in the 21st century has changed shockingly little.

Copper in the Living Room

Though you can get cellular plans that include unlimited mobile data, and despite the fact that today’s mobile broadband is more than sufficient to carry television content, we are still mostly bound by the copper that runs through our walls, and terminates in the living room. While it is true that we can watch Internet protocol television (IPTV), content providers artificially curtail our ability to do so.

On your favorite computer, over your fat Internet pipe, you can go to any of the network channels and read an excuse for why you can’t watch live TV on that perfectly capable device. Either they do not have a live stream in your local area, or you have to sign up for an extra paid service, or you have to prove that you are currently a cable subscriber. Even so, your provider may not be on the approved list. The cable authentication is especially prevalent if you are trying to watch on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet.

Perhaps the best way to shift your cable subscription to your computing device of choice is to be sure that you are signed up for one of the cable companies that are typically required when it is time to authenticate. And bundle your services such as broadband, TV, and phone for the lowest prices. If you are a Verizon customer, some sites still have the FiOS double play promo codes. You will want to check for FiOS availability in your area.

Netflix, Hulu+, and iTunes

Something you couldn’t do in the 1950s was watch your favorite show whenever you were in the mood to see it. You had to be home, in your comfy chair, with beverage in hand at the time of broadcast. Today, we don’t even know what channel, time, or even day our favorite shows air. If we are in the mood for some Bones, we look it up by name on our favorite service of choice, and watch the most recent show available.

There lies the rub. Your favorite show is often not available when you want to see it. Content owners still try to manipulate things so that despite the freedom offered by technology, we still have to tune in on their schedule rather than ours.

Hulu+ provides the best chance of seeing the network show you want. It keeps up with new shows, presenting them a little after they air over copper. If you don’t mind waiting a day or two, you might want to pay for that service, which plays on just about anything.

If you live in the past, Netflix has the best catalog of legacy shows. It is also a great place to find catalog movies. It takes a while for the new stuff to arrive. When you find a series you like, watch it while it is there. It may not be there a few months later.

On iTunes, you can watch just about anything you like, mostly, in a timely manner. This goes for TV shows and new releases. The downside is that you have to pay for everything a la cart. That gets real expensive real fast.

If you want all the major TV content including sports and live events, you still must have copper running through your living room. Cord cutting is still only something for tech enthusiasts who are not fund of sports or local news. For the rest of us, things are a little better. But we still have a lot of catching up to do.

About the Author

Ali is a dental school graduate currently living in Amman, Jordan; born and raised in the US, a tech lover with a serious addiction to all things sweet. He is the co-founder of GeekOnGadgets, and a senior editor at our Sister site

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  • What a great article!

  • l33tuc

    Sounds like we’re a little better off in the UK… all of the major networks have decent online VOD services, most of which also allow you to watch live. Having said that though, I think TV works quite differently over here… 95% of the most watched TV is ‘free to air’ (or so the advert tells us)… we have over 100 ‘free’ digital terrestrial TV channels which require no subscription.

    The BBC network is completely advert free, they are funded via an annual TV licence.

    The common belief is if you have a TV in your house, you have to pay the TV licence, however this is not actually true… you only have to pay the license if you watch (or personally record) live broadcasts (regardless of device) in your home.

    So, If you hook up a pc to a TV / miracast from your phone etc and are happy to watch programmes on your own schedule (duh!) you can legally do it for free with a lot of UK programming.

    Obviously there are some exceptions, certain programmes are only available on subscription services (GoT for example), but these also have decent VOD services.

    It’s not very often you can say something is better in the UK! :)