Friday, June 17, 2011

Take the TV or the Computer?

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ABSTRACT

In this paper titled ‘An investigation into whether the television is being replaced by the computer as the most popular electronic entertainment system of choice’ I will try to theoretically find the final answer to this question through various methods. Both these devices are commonplace today and are technological marvels. First of all, I had to obtain many statistics and a breakdown of the number of television sets and computers in different geographical regions. This would include those of developed countries, and those of the developing countries. Whereas most of the developed countries have and equal number of computers and television sets, the developing countries had more of the latter. Due to this, I would also have to find out the reasons for these trends. I decided to conduct a survey to people in my surroundings. A survey on whether students preferred the computer or the television when they want electronic entertainment. I polled a total of 40 people from different age groups with an equal number of men and women. It was not easy to arrive at a definite conclusion due to the differing trends in different countries, but it appeared that the television has not yet been replaced by the computer. However, at the current rate at which the computers are being used in the market, the television may soon be a device of yesteryear in the near future.


CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE

Introduction

How the Television Works

How the Computer Works

The Two Entertainment Systems

Behavioral Interaction

Basics of Computer Entertainment

So Which of the Two is the Winner?

Which Do People Go to First?

Evaluation and Conclusion

Bibliography and Acknowledgements


Introduction


The computer is one of the most widely used electronic devices around today. These machines are used in offices, schools and homes for both working and entertainment purposes. There is always one other electronic device, also with the purpose to entertain, that vies with the computer for being the premiere entertainment machine. It is the television. Both of these devices are entertainment systems that are used by people. Is one more superior to the other? Or will one of them soon go down in history by ending its chapter of existence? Both of them are technical marvels in their own right. There are features the television has, which are not found in the computer, and vice versa. Is one a clear cut winner over the other in terms of function ability and entertainment excellence? Will this answer vary due to the geographical region or economical strength?

I decided to investigate whether the television will be replaced by the computer in the coming years for being the best entertainment system around, and if so, what are the reasons for this trend.

I will first be going through the fundamentals of both the television and the computer. Following which, I will move onto analysis and evaluation of both the statistics showing the current trends of both these machines as well as of my survey, before finally concluding.


How the Television Works

To understand what actually makes the computer and television what it is today, it is necessary to understand the basic concepts behind them. Although both these appliances may look alike at first, in actual fact they have many differences between them.

Television is one of our most important means of communication. At first glance, the television appears to be exactly the same as the monitor of a computer. This is not the case, after some scrutiny, they are quite different.

In order for the television to work, there must be transmission from a broadcasting station. A camera records the scene where the event is happening. This camera then changes the picture into electric signals, which are thus sent as transmission where the television decodes it back into moving pictures and sound from either the antenna or a satellite dish. This converting process is known as scanning.

The television picture tube receives electrical video signals from the tuner and translates the signal back into images. The picture that we see on the T.V, are created by an electron gun in the back of the picture tube. If it is a color television, this object shoots beams of electrons towards the back of the television screen from three electron guns, which reproduce the primary colours. A metal shadow mask behind the screen has hole in order to keep each electron beam in line with the colored dots and away from dots of other colors. Hence we are able to view the complete picture with the aid of the shadow mask and through the mixture of these primary colors.

The audio system consists of a discriminator, which is used for translating the audio portion of the wave back into an electronic audio signal. This translated wave is fed to the amplifier and then finally reproducing the sound to our ears through the speakers.


How the Computer Works

Components of a computer are known as hardware. The Computer’s hardware includes the memory, the CPU, the bus, input devices, and output devices. Input devices may include a floppy drive, a CD-ROM drive, a keyboard and even maybe a scanner. Also present are output devices, such as printers, video display monitors, and usually a pair of speakers. These would enable the computer to present information to the user. It is through these devices in which the user can ‘interact’ with the computer. The programs that run the computer are called software. These are designed to perform a particular type of task.

Once the user has turned on the computer, it searches its memory for a set of instructions. Usually, the first set of instructions that the computer loads is known as the operating system, which is the software that enables the computer to work. It prompts the user for input, usually given by the user through the keyboard and mouse and in return, controls the software and hardware actions. Common and popular operating systems today such as Windows 8/NT/2000/XP, and Macintosh operating systems, have a graphical user interface to display icons, that leads to various commands. The graphical user interface is known as the computer monitor. Fundamentally, this appliance shares the same principles with the television.

Information from an input device or memory is made communicable with the CPU. This part of the computer is where it translates commands and runs programs. The CPU is a microprocessor chip, which is a single piece of silicon containing millions of electrical components. The CPU coordinates and times its functions, and awaits the next sequence of instructions from memory.

The physical memory of a computer is either random access memory (RAM), which can be changed through the discretion of the user, or read-only memory (ROM), which can be read by the computer but not altered. Other methods of storing memory within or outside the computer can come in the form of magnetic floppy disks, which can store up to megabytes of information. Also hard drives, which can store thousands of megabytes of information, and CD-ROMs (compact discs) which can store up to 700 megabytes of information.


The Two Entertainment Systems

People need to have some form of entertainment. They have a whole range of choices, from playing sports, or just relaxing. When it comes to home entertainment, there are essentially two electronic entertainment systems that are equally suited to the task at hand. The television and the computer. Is one more desirable than the other?

Television brings its viewers a steady stream of programs that are designed to entertain. People with a television set can for instance; sit at home and watch the leader of the country make a speech. Through the television, viewers can see and learn about animals, nature, people, and things that are from faraway lands. Millions of people around the world can watch for instance, sports, music videos, and even an out of this world experience by being able to see the earth from space. In fact, the television provides more entertainment programs than any other kind of electronic home entertainment. However, there is also the computer that is able challenge the television to doing the same thing.

In developed nations such as Japan, Australia, Western Europe and the United States, almost every home has at least one television set. Statistics from ‘Table 6’ on the chart below have shown us, that children in lower income families seem to watch television the most. In these households, the television tends to be on the entire day, possibly up to 1 hours. In the upper-class households, it can be as low as 7.

Within countries that have a huge proportion of television viewers, the television has become the best way to reach people with advertisement messages known as commercials.

Cable television is a television service that viewers pay for by subscription. While commercial and public television send signals over the airwaves, cable television signals are delivered by way of cables. There are some cable systems that offer viewers hundreds of channels. The picture and sound quality are superior to that of the airwave television since they are delivered by cable and less likely to be disrupted by atmospheric interference.


Behavioral Interaction

A look at the patterns of viewing television from ‘Chart 11’ shown below indicates that a higher percentage of viewers in households subscribing to digital CS broadcasting service frequently change from channel to channel (often called flipping or zapping), or watch television while doing something else, followed by those in households subscribing to CATV and then those in general households. On the other hand, the smallest percentage of viewers in households subscribing to digital CS broadcasting service confirms with the television program listings before watching television. Although one may receive different impressions through intuition, it cannot be gathered from these results that even if the viewing environment shifts to Multi-channel broadcasting, viewers will necessarily watch television with a clearer awareness of their purpose of doing so. Also one of the criticisms television faces is its lack of interactivity. That is why people sometimes “flip” or “zap” to different channels. On the television there is always one way traffic. Only output from the television and input to the user, and nothing else.


Chart 11 Patterns of View Television

(Population-adjusted)

Households subscribing to digital CS broadcasting service households subscribing to CATV General households decide on programs that I want to watch after changing from channel 51. 50.0 4.8

Often watch television while changing from channel to channel in order to enjoy several 4. 4.1 47.6

Often watch television while doing something else 6.4 57.8 55.

Often keep television turned on when having nothing to do 67.8 64.0 6.7

check with television program listings before watching Television 7. 7. 77.


The Basics of Computer Entertainment

The computer has changed the way we work, learn, communicate, and play. Students, teachers, and research scientists use the computer as learning tools. Millions of others communicate with one another over a network of others known as the Internet. Computer games entertain people of all ages and professions. Not only is a computer able to entertain people, it can also be used as a learning tool.

One of the most common uses for a computer is for games. These are software that combines graphics, animation, sound and music with a unique and creative design in order to produce a fun and exciting adventure, simulations, or mystery. Some computer games can be played on several computers that are connected by modems. This gives the user the opportunity to compete or work with other users to make the game more exciting and interactive, one of the many things television sets are unable to do.

Kids have discovered they can have fun on PCs, the Internet and handheld game systems, challenging the traditional videogame console, said Ness. Videogame console makers need to figure out how to have their systems play well with other platforms.

Virtual reality software similar to games uses graphics, sound, and other tools in order to create an artificial world in which the user can seem to move through. These systems usually include a headset that is complemented by two tiny display screens, one for each eye. The images on the screen differ from the normal computer monitor, as the illusion is enhanced when the user moves his or her head. The adjustment is made by the computer to form a new perspective. These virtual worlds can include sensor-lined gloves worn by the user to act as hands in the computer world. Although this form of entertainment might not carry nearly as much detail of what is seen in the actual world, the images are realistic enough for video games.


So which of the Two is the Winner?

Although the television is more of a commonplace than computers around the world especially in poorer countries as shown in ‘Table 1.1’ below and the chart labeled ‘Households’ further down, it’s not always the best entertainment around. For example, the television is useless if there is no broadcasting stations nearby. However, on a computer, you can still play games if it’s already installed in the system’s memory as long as there is electricity. The computer is interactive. This is one of the criticisms leveled at the television for its lack of interactivity. It is the opinion of some, that computer games bring more amusements, as every game is never the same as the former compared to the television which is at times very soporific. Moreover, the numbers of computers are rising at an astonishing rate as indicated by the chart below.

One recent survey asked if you were shipwrecked on a desert island, would you prefer a telephone, a television set or a computer with Internet access? Most people chose the Internet connection. Other surveys have found that more than half of the respondents have rearranged furniture in their homes to make room for a computer. Three out of four think that their e-mail address is better known than their telephone number. Almost four out of every five take time that they used to spend watching television to surf the web.

The Internet is also one of the major factors whether people go for computer entertainment or television entertainment. In this case, people in the United States are surfing the Internet in order to find information regarding product and service information. Whereas watching television to find information can take many long hours of waiting, information on the internet is on demand, or searchable whenever the user wants it. This explains the decline of television viewing with the introduction of the internet. The impact of this on television viewing is shown in the graph above.

Interestingly enough, some Americans actually use television in order to find out more about web sites for products and service info. This then actually shows that the television is actually a complement to the computer, or vice versa. Since 4% of people use the television to find websites and other information. Both the computer and the television must ‘work’ hand in hand to aid each other. This could also show signs that the television is not going to be replaced by the computer in due time.

The American Learning Household Survey statistics indicate that there is a trade-off between children’s television programs and the amount of computer use exists. For example, in households with a computer available, the amount of time children spend watching cartoons drops. In households where children use computers, almost two-thirds of parents report that their children had a significant drop in television viewing times. “Cartoons and children’s programs, along with comedies/sitcoms, continue to be the top three types of TV programs children watch on a regular basis each week, based on their parents observations, in both PC and non-PCs (5.5 percent to 41.1 percent). This may reflect the tendency of PC users to both have higher incomes and higher education levels than the non-user.”

Yet the television is the much easier option to use on the long run. Once the power button is pressed, the television is on, and is ready for viewing. All the user has to do after that would be to press the channel buttons. The computer howbeit, does not share the same directness. The user would have to wait for just under a minute before it is “ready.” Additionally, sometimes the computers are plagued by viruses, which at times can be innocuous, but other times, they can be a great calamity to the user.

The graph below based on results taken from British households, shows us that although the television dominated the households in yesteryear, in 2000 it was evenly matched with the computer. At the rate of increase the computers are at, it would be very soon, before the computer would surpass the number of televisions in households. However, interestingly, all the other lines besides the computer and the television have a relation with the television. All of them require a television to be present in order to function. However, these results only reflect the trends in Britain, whereas in the developing countries, the television would still dominate households.

Despite its ease of use, the television lacks interactivity. A television cannot talk back, nor can it argue back. In terms of program selections, there are ultimately two options, either to watch it, or not to watch it. “The rigidity of this medium, coupled with the fact that the broadcaster has the final (and usually only) say in the choice of program material, makes television reek of autocratic imposition of ideas”

Despite the television and computer being top electronic entertainment systems today, the geographic locations will determine whether or not which of these two would dominate the market. Countries that were on the whole richer would have a higher percentage of computers, while the not so rich countries would have computers to a lesser extent. Similar to the television and computer statistics in Slovenia, Macau which is also a developing country has a 8% television penetration; while only a 1.7% computer penetration. However, the television is dominant both in the richer countries and in the poorer countries. This shows that although the computer may soon supercede the television in developed countries, it is not quite archaic yet as its price is still a huge determining factor.


Which Do People Go To First?

In a survey taken in my high school portrayed a very interesting perspective

A total of 40 students were polled, with 10 in each age group.

Male/Female Age Prefer TV or Prefer PC

Among the male students that were polled, most prefer the computer because according to them, it has more to offer. Also, they said that computer games give them more thrills as compared to watching television. They said that the computer was an all-round machine, being able to watch television at times, watch DVD and VCD movies, listen to MP music, as well as using the chat rooms whilst they’re surfing the internet. They can even do all of this in the midst of their homework.

The girls in general however, preferred the television because of its ease of use. They often complained that the computer was too complicated but are a good means of doing homework. The online chartrooms topped their list for a great source of entertainment from the computer.


Evaluation and Conclusion

Although in the world today, where computers and televisions are top entertainment systems vying to outdo each other, certain countries have trends that puts the computer ahead of the television, while other countries have the exact opposite trend. These are mainly caused by the economic status of the countries. Developed countries on the whole show the computer closing the gap with the television in terms of numbers and preference, while in the developing countries, the numbers of television sets is far beyond that of the computer. The most likable reason for this trend is the amount of money their people earn. Generally, a television set is far less expensive than a computer. Thus, owning a computer is very costly and some people in the developing countries cannot afford the computer, so they use the television instead.

This is one of the problems that hindered me in finding the final answer to my question. The differing trends made it extremely difficult to know for certain whether one is better than the other. Even the survey conducted to people in my environment showed trends of a developed country despite my friends being relatively well to do, in which they preferred the television over the computer.

Compared to television, the market for computers is relatively small. There are many obstructions that stand in the way of the vision of every home being connected to the rest of the world through the internet. These barriers include price, ease of use, and content. Computer, contrastingly to the television, give the user an opportunity to interact with the programming, instead of just having a passive one way traffic of information being leveled at them. Computers offer a complete means of communication that television cannot match. But due to the reasons mentioned above, it will not be replacing the television soon due to the many constraints.



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