CES is mostly useless, sure, and most of the trillion dinky things trotted out like chrome and plastic show chihuahuas will wind up in landfills. But CES is worth it just to give 4K, UltraHD TV its big debut. And if you’re not amazed by it, there is something wrong with you.
The entirety of CES was both an ornate celebration and obnoxious whine-fest about 4K television.
The charges are simple:
• 4K is too expensive for anyone to afford.
• 4K doesn’t have any firm release dates, so we don’t even know when we can buy it.
• 4K doesn’t have any content, so it’s pointless to even think about buying one.
• I already have a TV, so why would I care about another TV?
Ergo, 4K sucks and is irrelevant. CES sucks! This sucks!
That attitude couldn’t be more inappropriate or disheartening. There’s no doubt that 4K is all of these bad things right now and out of reach. But it’s also, retina for retina, one of the most amazing things my eyes have ever observed. It’s technology that makes you smile because of how impressive it is. It’s technology that doesn’t seem possible — looking at Sony’s OLED 4K was almost giggle-inducing, it seemed so fantastic compared to what we have now. Colours aren’t supposed to look like that! You’re not supposed to be able to see the details in someone’s hair this way! But you can — or rather, you will, as soon these televisions are put on shelves with price tags that align themselves with our actual livelihoods.
And it will. I promise you, it will. I know because the exact same thing already transpired in the history of technology. The exact same thing. We’re quick to sink into forgetfulness and cynicism, but turn your clocks back to 1998 if you can, the year in which the New York Times published this article titled “HDTV: High Definition, High in Price”:
AFTER more than a decade of research and political debate, most of the world’s consumer-electronics manufacturers have announced their plans and prices for the new high-definition television sets that go on sale in September. And talk about sticker shock: the least expensive ones will cost $US8,000.
That $US8000 number is almost $US12,000 in today’s inflated dollars, and keep in mind the enormity of these impending 4K sets, which dwarf any early HDTV predecessors. The display technology is also massively more sophisticated too. Still, the most impressive, amazingly vivid picture anyone had ever seen was something almost nobody could afford. At first. And why bother? Everyone was still renting VHS movies anyway. It’s almost as if we were faced with a brand new technology of unprecedented visual amazement that cost too much, didn’t have any available content and seemed entirely impractical.
Now department stores try to liquidate this same technology every six months.
This cycle will repeat. You will be able to afford something absolutely mesmerising to replace the TV you have now — a TV that will make watching Chinatown, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Downton Abbey more enjoyable than it has ever been. A TV that will make viewing your huge DSLR photos more gratifying than they’ve ever been. A dazzling, bright screen for doing dazzling video things that haven’t even been invented yet. And how can anyone be anything but thrilled for that? Are any of you so cynical that you’d rather throw up your hands and tilt your nose back at a technology that hasn’t even had a chance yet? This is science fiction stuff — screens that approach reality! Kick yourself in the arse if that’s not something that makes you grin, even if it will only make sense in 2022.
Until then, let yourself be amazed and excited. This isn’t some bullshit buzz melange, a better cloud or faster stream or bigger screen. This is a genuine leap forward toward a big rectangle that will sit in your house and stimulate your brain’s pleasure areas. The bleeding tip of tech has always been a little aspirational, so let’s let it be. We shouldn’t spend the years between us and 4K as drooling, ogling consumers, but we shouldn’t spend them as eye-rolling sceptics either. Let’s just smile, wait and let our geeky corneas sizzle in anticipation. It’ll be worth it — I promise you.