Archive | February 2011

Telegraph: The Victorian Internet

On the subject of the telegraph, it really is a “Victorian Internet”. The internet we use today is a global network of computer networks designed to collectively serve billions of people in both public and private channels. It is a technology that has opened new channels of communication to everyone that uses it. This technology includes e-mail, instant messaging, video chat, and voice chat amongst other social channels.

The telegraph was a global network of cables used to allow long range communication between people in both public and private channels. For the first time, the world was linked together by a vast network of cables, and this is an impactful fact that many people have probably forgotten. This network allowed for rapid delivery of text messages, much like today’s e-mail.

This method of delivering messages is what makes the telegraph the victorian internet. While it does not have the open access to information and entertainment that the internet has, its social communication is very much the same. It is funny to think back at when my family first got e-mail accounts over a phone-line internet service. Back then, we were comparing it to regular postal service letters when really it was replacing telegraphs. One might call e-mail, the earliest form of the internet, was really a widespread home telegraph service.

My View on Television and My Habits Surrounding it

I can honestly say that these day, I do not watch television live anymore. If I do, it will be at the gym, and I’ll usually position myself to watch ESPN or CNN. The reason I choose those networks is because I enjoy sports highlights, and would like to keep informed on world events.

This is not to say that I do not watch TV otherwise. I do keep up with a few shows, but for various reasons, I do not watch them as they are broadcast. One such show is Friday Night Lights. This show used to be on Cable, but Direct TV got a timed exclusive on it for the fall, with Cable able to broadcast it in the spring. By then, it is available on various digital distribution mediums, so I end up just downloading or streaming it.

I’ll also watch old shows that are available for streaming on netflix, Hulu, or DVD. I guess you could say I’m more of a nostalgic when it comes to television entertainment, because I honestly don’t find the modern TV direction to be appealing. That is, to say, I don’t like that everything has to be some super hyped fad.

Does anyone recall when Twilight first came out in theaters? How many vampire shows came out right after that? True Blood and Vampire Diaries to name two, both at the same time on different channels. How about Zombie Land? Now we have an influx of zombie shows, games, and movies. 300 brought us Rome, Spartacus, and other Roman.Greek themed shows. Everything seems to come in waves, and everything has to have some epic scale to it.

Of course, this is not a modern phenomenon. Television has been feeding off of popular hype for a long time, as it generally makes for good ratings. When Star Trek: The Next Generation proved that sci-fi could cut it on television once again, a host of sci-fi shows came to follow, most notably Babylon 5 and Fire Fly. Now that Star Trek shows have gone the way of the dinosaur, I don’t see anymore sci-fi sitcoms being produced, but a Star Wars live action show may bring us a new wave.

With each wave, I can only roll my eyes and brace myself for the oversaturation of each theme. It really is unfortunate, because I believe this causes a rift between viewer audiences and produces worse ratings than they could be. A lot of good shows have had their lives cut short because of poor ratings, having to compete with other shows simply because they involve the exact same theme with a slightly different angle.

Streaming Media and the Future

I was a late adopter when it came to streaming technologies in terms of subscription based distribution. Its hard to avoid the news sites that insist on streaming video updates and stories, but when it comes to shows and movies, we have the freedom of choice. Forms of streaming media include internet radio, tv and movie services like netflix and Hulu, as well as open video services like youtube.

Internet radio is a very wide open and robust streaming medium, with many different types of services out there. Websites can host their own personal mixes that play when people visit their page, or you can have an actual internet radio subscription service with stations like normal or satellite radio. Additionally, there are popular mobile application like Pandora Radio that stream nonstop music on a variety of custom tailored stations depending on search criteria the users input. Of all streaming media, I think that this one has the brightest future. Unlike video formats, audio is much easier to stream at a high quality rate, and people can listen to music at any time while movies and TV shows would require a more focused attention. Video services, however, are where the money seems to be made.

Personally, I only use netflix when it comes to streaming video media, and that is because it has the benefit of primarily being a dvd/bluray mail rental service. As a video streaming service, netflix is a bit unique in that it only offers streaming of movies and shows that have been released on DVD, and that’s only if netflix can/has secured the separate rights for digital streaming distribution. Even then, there can be considerable delay between streaming availability and a DVD release, usually favoring DVD releases to help foster sales. Still, netflix has built its future plans around streaming of movies and tv shows, offering streaming service for PCs, Macs, and many media devices like the iPhone, iPad, Playstation 3, XBox 360, and Wii. As an added bonus, a person’s membership works on all of the devices, and they can be used simultaneously. This is something that Hulu only offers at a pro-rated fee.

Hulu is on a somewhat different part of the video streaming spectrum. Unlike netflix, Hulu does not limit itself to movies and TV shows that have been released on DVD. Specifically, Hulu offers TV episodes as quickly as they can secure the rights, sometimes immediately after they’re aired for the first time. This has made Hulu a very popular free video streaming service directly from the internet accessed on your web browser. but if you want to stream Hulu on another device like the iPad or PS3, you have to pay a monthly fee that is more than netflix’s, and doesn’t offer a disc mail service for full quality video.

Either way you go, video streaming will give mixed results. I have been pleasantly surprised and very disappointed by video streaming, and there are many factors that play into it. First, and foremost, your internet connection must be fast if you are hoping for good quality video. If you don’t have a good cable speed, HD is completely out of the question, and even regular video can end up being a blobby mess at times while the audio plays flawlessly. Second, what kind of video your service gets the rights for. These video services are aimed at making money, and thusly, the more popular movies and shows will get the better video quality. I can honestly say that using netflix to watch some old time favorites has given me mostly poorly transferred videos, some being cable rips from the Stars network. Third, there are limits to what you can do with streamed video. netflix and hulu don’t support fast forward or rewind, and jumping to a point in a video will usually result in a couple minutes of frozen video while it loads the buffer. Your audio is limited to a single option, be it english, french, spanish, stereo, or surround. If you don’t agree with it, you can’t change it. Still, there is a convenience in streaming video that I enjoy a lot, and it will probably become one of the big media formats of the future. It will not, however, replace retail releases. It has yet to be seen if physical media or digital download distribution will win out, but either way, that will remain the primary choice for top quality video entertainment until streaming and internet connection speeds can catch up.

Finally, there is youtube and its many competitors for free open video streaming. These services allow people to upload their own videos and share them with the world. While this service has resulted in an entire new way for people to share things, and even created a new type of journalism called vlogging, it doesn’t have a very stable future. Since youtube was bought, it has proven to be nothing but a huge money sink, and hasn’t provided any solid way to produce profits, or even self sustain. Now videos are often times forced to have ads played first, an annoyance that cannot be skipped. This type of streaming will remain, because it has become a large part of the internet, but it probably will not expand much beyond what it is now.