When Worlds Collide: The G4TechTV Channel By Shane Shellenbarger
I have always been a bit of a gadget freak. I bought a used Panasonic reel-to-reel video tape recorder for $250.00 from a friend by painting his house when I was 17 and 1-hour tapes each cost $15.00. At the time, I was so green that I didn't know that the recorder required a separate television tuner that would set me back an additional $350.00. All of my income as a grocery store bagger was going into my new passion: video tape recording. The machine wasn't cutting edge technology, but it allowed me the freedom to time shift programs: I could finally see Harlan Ellison interviewed by Tom Snyder on the Tomorrow Show. When Sony offered their SL-7200 Betamax videocassette recorder for sale on February 18, 1976, I was ready. I'd been saving for months and I was prepared with the $1000.00 (wholesale) for the tape deck and an additional $120.00 (again, wholesale) for a case of twelve K-60 tapes. What a difference 29 years can make. Now you can buy a Sony VHS videocassette recorder for under $80.00 and Sony VHS tapes for as little as $0.46 each.
I haven't always been a user of bleeding edge technology, or even cutting edge technology, but I do consider myself as much of a gadget geek as anybody you'd find at the Consumer Electronics Show (I've been there three times).
So we've established that I'm a technology nut, a gadget gourmet, a . . . well, you get the picture. Therefore, I keep my eyes and ears open for all things that feed my hunger for more ways to frustrate myself with technology. You heard right I said frustrate, because as technology gets more complex, as you attempt to use that technology in new and different ways the software and hardware will find new and different ways to frustrate you. Just ask anybody who has spent an afternoon trying to make a birthday card on his or her computer only to have the printer ruin each envelope you try to run through it. Ask the person who is trying to copy a one-of-a-kind audio cassette to a cd only to have the tape wrinkle in the deck, or the MP3 recorder stop for no reason one minute before the end of the tape, or they discover that they recorded in the WMA format and their conversion software doesn't convert WMA's into MP3's. Ask the person who wants to save digital pictures to a DVD, spends hours on the placement of thousands of stills and then discovers that the finished DVD won't stop at each still, but must be viewed with a preset delay. Technology constantly frustrates me. The gap between what I want to use technology for and the ease with which technology can be used is a gulf the size of the Grand Canyon.
Given that level of frustration, I was excited when I happened upon a sampler of a show named Call For Help on a channel called Tech TV. Later, I caught The Screen Savers and I noticed that the host was the same guy, Leo Laporte, a jovial, intelligent, humorous guy who can make the most complex technology understandable to the densest dilettante. My regret is that I didn't immediately take the necessary steps to get Tech TV. One thing after another delayed me and it wasn't until February 2004 that I forked out the bucks to bring a digital box into my home and allow me to become a Tech TV Junkie. I was hooked. Little did I know that storm clouds loomed on the horizon.
By the end of March 2004, Comcast announced that it was buying Tech TV from Vulcan Ventures (who had completed the purchase of ZDTV from Ziff-Davis Publishing on January 21, 2000) and that Comcast's gaming channel, G4, would combine with Tech TV to create G4TechTV. Well, that shouldn't be bad, I like video and computer games, maybe this will be a good thing. Alas, it was not to be.
Oh, for those "Good Old Days" when The Screen Savers had content worth watching. Hints, tips, help for computer problems, material that was meaningful to the viewer. In those G.O.D's, the on-air talent (primarily Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton) would kid each other, but the attempts at humor were light and the viewer never felt as if the hosts were trying out for the 3:30 a.m. slot at The Comedy Store or practicing for the Bat Mitzvah gig they'd wrangled for the weekend. In those oh, so fondly remembered G.O.D's, bands like LIT (which I'm guessing isn't short for LITERATURE) would be on a show dealing with rock and roll or heavy metal in games, not filling time to keep the commercials from slamming together.
I can't believe that G4 bought TechTV just to run the channel into the ground. I had hoped that the shows would get better, that the hosts (Leo) would return or not leave (Pat) when Comcast fired all of the San Francisco staff and moved the production South to Los Angeles, but I guess I was just kidding myself. Judging by the crop of G4 hosts and advertisers (primarily the Army and YOUFILLINTHEBLANK Computer Graphic Design School), G4TechTV doesn't have any interest in an audience older than 29. One source claims that before the merger, G4 was viewed in 15 million homes and TechTV was seen in 43 million homes. I think that Comcast is backing the wrong horse.
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