display | more...

This node title is a shortened version of an article from The Onion, released in March of 1998. The entire title is: New $5,000 Multimedia Computer System Downloads Real-Time TV Programs, Displays Them On Monitor.

The article is based around the humorous premise that television could now be viewed on a computer, with the additional expense of several cutting edge peripherals, such as a 349 dollar sound card. The form of the humor, as with almost all Onion articles, is the exaggerated usage of the newspaper conventions of writing. The content of the humor comes from the hype with which people at the time viewed the coming popularity of the internet, and of computers for multimedia applications.

In 1998, a Pentium-II computer with a 56K modem was a state of the art computer. Web browsers were still things that were purchased. Video files were still not standardized, and there was a variety of competing formats. 15" was the standard monitor size. I remember, in late 1998 or early 1999, downloading 10 or 15 second mpegs from NASA's website, and being amazed that I was watching a short, grainy video on my computer.

In other words, at the time the article was released, it was a quite funny satire on the overly optimistic expectations of the computing age, because it really would have cost 5,000 dollars to have a computer capable of watching television, even in a very clumsy way.

However, just as serious writings about computing have had a gigantic margin of error, both in being overly and underly optimistic, humorous writings about computing have the same problem. Here, what was at the time a funny article making fun of the hype of the first internet age, seems greatly quaint. In 2011, watching video clips, and entire television programs, on a computer with an internet connection, is quite the norm, and has been for some years. At this point, The Onion's article about watching television on a computer would be like having an article about having a telephone you could carry in your pocket---something that was also expensive and rare in early 1998.

The lesson to be learned here is that humor about computing, much like humor about politics or celebrities, is something that does not age well.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.