The Thinking Person's TV Guide

A common concern today is the quality of TV programming. The deficiencies of TV Guide (etc.) are the major bottleneck in finding the few programs intended for thinking people, and thereby bringing about evolution of better programming. When you get past the level of just turning the TV on to see what's playing, you open the TV Guide and turn to the date and time to see what's playing. Finding the schedule for a specific program or subject when you have no idea when, or even if, it's going to be playing, is considerably more difficult. Adequate indexing, especially if by computer, combined with the VCR, would be a big advantage for intelligent viewing.

At least, TV Guide should have cross referencing of programs by name and subject matter. But we could go way beyond that.

Each TV station could transmit program information in place of the regular picture, at an unpopular hour of the early morning. It would be readable by home computer or a small dedicated computer perhaps built into the TV. One second of transmission time from each station should be enough for all foreseen programs. Daily updates would take much less time. All cable and local stations would be designated specific times to transmit such data.

This way you would only get information about stations you are able to receive rather than perhaps have to hunt through many more listings. You would, so to speak, get it from the horse's mouth. It would be combined in your computer with information from other stations into a complete listing which would remain in the computer until updated. Using database powers of the computer, maybe the TV screen as a computer screen, and a keyboard, you could search for specific program names, performers or subjects desired. The subject information sent by the station would use a system of standardized keywords to help you choose what to look for.

Ideally, the computer could then feed the time and channel information into the TV, or the VCR, programming it for appropriate times and channels. Then you simply let the system know when you have time to watch and it gives you a choice of pre-recorded programs or perhaps "live", pre-selected ones.

Such a system may lead us away from lowest-common-denominator TV. Of course TV Guide would not be happy about this, but their deficiencies are due to the monopoly they've had for too long.

This sort of thing is beginning to happen, in less efficient ways. My way of course requires the cooperation of the TV, VCR and computer accessories industries.


Send me your thoughts.
Dan Robinson, danrob@efn.org, Eugene, Oregon
My home page: http://www.efn.org/~danrob/