People are ignorant about consumer electronics

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 13, 2011, 10:32 PM | comments: 1

If there's one business I would never want to go into, it's that of consumer electronics. The reason is two-fold: The marketing targets stupid people, and the consumers buy into it.

I started to really appreciate this after college, when I briefly worked in retail selling computers while I looked for my radio dream job. When I landed a TV gig, even though it was government cable, I watched people believe even more ridiculousness during the crazy long transition to digital cameras and television. Even when the science behind the devices is relatively straight forward, people don't actually care to understand any of it.

I know I've mentioned before how I can't stand how "loud" televisions are by default. I've also mentioned how the consumer grade cameras (I'm looking at you, Canon Rebels) have awful color and contrast settings. People just accept it, and believe it looks great. Have you seen anything in real life that looks that red?

TV's are the worst, and I blame the manufacturers. The recent fascination with refresh rates demonstrates how stupid it has become. OK, so your TV can refresh at 240 Hz. Nevermind that every movie you watch was shot at 24, and TV is typically 30 or 60. All the TV is doing is trying (and failing) to make images that sit in between, even though your eye has been quite comfortable with 24 fps since you were born. Don't even get me started on sharpening and noise reduction.

Or take the forthcoming re-release of the Star Wars movies on Blu-Ray. Ignorant people on Amazon are reviewing it poorly, without seeing it, because they read somewhere that transferring film at 4k or 8k resolutions is better, and Lucas allegedly has not done this. Forget for a moment that home HD TV's are only 1920x1080... Episodes II and III were shot on cameras that used that resolution. How the hell are you supposed to "transfer" that to much higher resolutions, creating pixels that don't exist, just so you can down-sample it back to its original resolution?

Companies that make computers have finally backed off the marketing using specs, but it doesn't stop consumers from advocating one model or another. I've seen people on Facebook insist that a quad-core CPU is "slow" because it "only" runs at 2.0 GHz.

I suppose there's a bigger cultural problem where we judge quality or importance by numbers, even if they're meaningless. Heck, I'm part of the problem when I get smug about my 50 mpg. What's scary is that people will drive their decision to buy expensive shiny objects with zero understanding of what those number are really about. I suppose the saving ethos of our post-recession culture is helping correct that to some degree. You wouldn't know it by going to Costco. :)


Dave Althoff, August 26, 2011, 11:52 PM #

...And the reason we have all these high refresh rates? Because if the manufacturer picks a refresh rate that is a common multiple of 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60, then they don't have to adjust the scanning frequencies to match the frame rate. That which they can charge a premium for at $ELECTRONICS_RETAILER probably actually simplifies the design and reduces the manufacturing cost!

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