IPTV’s biggest problem

Dead channel

IPTV, or to give it a name rather than an acronym, TV over the web, is currently a very hot topic – whether it’s industry / IP clashes (of which this is just the latest in what will certainly be a long and tedious series of legal maneuvers) or technology ideas like Joost, a lot of people are taking TV on the computer very seriously. As well they should. Who doesn’t love the idea of getting good TV when and where they want it, and on whatever device/viewing platform they prefer? Who doesn’t think there’s money to be made, cool new technology to be invented and fun to be had with it?


There’s always a but. There is one problem which hasn’t been considered.

IPTV will ruin the best opening line of a novel in the last 30 years.

The novel is William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and this is how it begins:

‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

It’s a brilliant opening: both gripping and detached, strange technical but still immediate and crucially for any description, tangible to the point that it has real emotion. A good opening line like this is like a good part of a pop song: a guitar crunch, a bass drum thump, a chord: it’s a moment that pulls itself out of normal time, a second that lasts longer than every other and acts as portal into what will follow.

IPTV has no static. In twenty years time, copies of Neuromancer are going to have a little 1 at the end of that line and young readers will immediately stop, flick to the notes at the bottom, and see a long, overly explanatory note that says “TVs used to get a signal through an aerial. When they were not tuned properly, they would display static, a strange commingling of white and black pixels. Gibson uses this image to immediately foreground a feeling of emotional deadness, of disconnection, of blah blah blah etc etc”

You get the picture (no pun intended). So, developers of IPTV – please put static in! At least as a little option. It could just pop up every now and then. Hello? Please!

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