After Hours

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Face-off with a hotel TV

Could anything be more complex?

Compiled in my San Bruno, California, hotel room. Dispatched the next day from San Francisco Airport via a commercial wi-fi service.

So there you are, having flown across the Atlantic. You feel a little jaded. You unpack your kit, get a coffee, read all the backed-up emails, read the newspaper, and then you figure it would be relaxing to watch the news before getting some sleep. What could be easier?

For decades it has been computers that have confounded people. Radio and TV haven't been a big deal. Well not anymore! Some clown has decided to integrate everything into my hotel TV set. So I am offered analogue TV, digital TV, cable, satellite, video on demand, internet access and IPTV - all on one box that looks innocent enough.

There it sits, all big and black - an old cathode ray tube enclosure weighing in at some 15kg or so.

Don't be deceived, this sucker is evil!

I pick up the controller, which has more buttons than the cockpit of an A370 and 777 combined, and find myself at the menu page. So far so good! One click later and I think I'm on my way to a TV picture when I suddenly find myself in an IPTV cul-de-sac. No matter what I do I go round in a series of infinite loops.

Finally the screen advises that I should use the keyboard to navigate. But there is no keyboard in the room, and a call to reception advises me that keyboards for the TV aren't available.

Hey, I'm an engineer, I can fix or get around anything - right? Wrong!

After a full, and very frustrating hour of trying every option possible, I decide to invoke the ultimate sanction - I pull the power and reboot. But - darn it - this thing has memory and returns me to the closed-loop nightmare I just pulled the plug on.

This is the last straw. I go to my laptop and watch the news from there. After all, what could be easier?

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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