If the PC is for when our brains are turned on, and the TV for when they’re turned off, would both together be a disaster for our creativity?
When I was a kid I’d often do my homework with the TV blaring away in the background. It’s maybe no surprise then that the only time I came top of the class was in woodwork, where the only distraction was half a pound of sawdust up the nose, the raw of a saw, splinters, and the imminent prospect of chopping off a finger/arm/leg.
Nowadays kids probably play Vice City while applying for their grade As, but I had Grange Hill, Rhubarb & Custard, and Top of the Pops to drop me tens of percentage points. It was easy to defend watching Tomorrow’s World, Blue Peter and Newsround – even Take Hart – on the grounds of education, but the level of distraction from writing that essay on King John or learning a long list of spellings was just as damaging.
Many design studios set the creatives apart from the project-managing suits by working to the sound of the radio or, increasingly, the senior designer’s iPod. Are we negatively affecting our output by bending béziers to Beyoncé, creating cut-outs to Coldplay, or rendering to REM? And could our attention be further sapped by TV desktops and laptops?
Apple’s recently announced G5 iMac is a genuine contender for any design studio. It may not boast the multiprocessing grunt of the dual-G5 Power Macs or gazillion-gigahertz Windows workstations, but its performance is more than acceptable for most creative needs. This super-slim “Where’s the computer?” computer looks a lot like an LCD television.
But Apple missed a trick by not including an option whereby it could easily be configured to include an internal TV tuner. There are other solutions, such as Elgato’s £249 EyeTV, but the new iMac would really have opened eyes if marketed
as a computer that’s also a TV – and a very nice, 20-inch LCD TV with digital video recording to its 250GB hard disk, at that.
Where Apple missed an opportunity to land another foot in the home-entertainment market, a more established player has jumped right in. Toshiba has embraced digital convergence with the launch of its new Qosmio AV notebook PCs.
Qosmio is an integrated, mobile personal entertainment and computing device that offers TV, audio, DVD recorder and PC functionality. It’s pronounced “koss-mee-oh”, but looks more like Quasimodo – not a great merger of brand identities for a device aimed at the design-sensitive home market (ie. mum).
Toshiba also has LCD TVs that directly record high-definition images to disks on a network. Broadcasts can be recorded in MPEG-4 format to an SD memory card for viewing on a portable device, such as a multimedia player or a mobile phone. The telly alerts viewers when email arrives on the computer and displays it on-screen. Users can browse the Web and watch TV programs side by side, simultaneously on a single screen.
The days of separate TV and computer are drawing to a close. Digital convergence is becoming reality. It won’t be long before all PCs and Macs come with TV tuner built-in, and the sound of Radio 1 is replaced by the theme to Neighbours or DVR-recorded episodes of Frost and The Lottery Show. Prepare for your creativity to dive as steeply as my school reports.