Friday, June 10, 2011

I just wanted to watch a movie

Years ago, I thought that home theaters were the one gadget-y thing I'd never understand. Wrapping my head around different combinations of TV, receiver, and device settings gave the pit of my stomach the same feeling it gets when I try to learn a foreign language or musical instrument—both vast depths of tedium that give me cognitive vertigo.

Then the time came when I actually needed a receiver, and after working with it for a while I realized something: It's not that home theater setup is complex, it's that a particular rig only really makes sense to the person who set it up. Someone else could learn the basics, like how to switch between the PS3 and Wii, but trying to explain the intricacies (like, for instance, how you can hook up a PC to my home theater by setting the TV to HDMI2 and the receiver to VIDEO 3, then uncoiling the spare HDMI cable and attaching the DVI con . . . see I've already lost you.) is a fools errand. Running someone else's home theater is like trying to use someone else's brain, which as we know always ends with "dude, can't handle it."

But although I now have a much better grasp of A\V equipment, one mystery persists*: why do receivers have to be so hot? What, exactly, about the process of routing video and audio signals requires a device that operates at three thousand degrees, on average? You may not realize, but the #2 most popular reason people buy new receivers, right behind "still don't have enough inputs, somehow," is currently listed as "Old receiver got so hot that it glowed red, melted through my floor, then through the earth below, and continued down until it hit groundwater. A plume of steam shot out of the new hole in my living room, which according to the manual's troubleshooting guide means that my old receiver is gone forever."

*Actually two, if you count "Why does the Nintendo Wii have to be 5 times louder than any other device?"

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