Review: The Discontinued Digital Television Channels Housed in a Previously Disused Digital Television Receiver

pictured : a digital reciever, entangled by the conflicting digital memories of your heart

What’s On Test: The consequences of re-installing an old digital TV receiver and finding the listings and channel information for several discontinued television stations still housed within the receiver’s internal electronic memory.

What we found:

Pros:  Our testers agreed that finding the digital listings for now defunct or rebranded television stations like abc1 and UKTVHistory compromised an effective nostalgic experience, as many of these former channels conjur misplaced yet evocative memories. We felt that this was important, as gettin’ wistful about old digital TV stations still comprised a valid emotive experience, and helps avoid the overuse of more legitimate memories, like time spent with an old friend or the melancholy experienced upon hearing of the death of an important horse in a road accident.

The rediscovery of old channels was also found to be of some value in terms of being able to appreciate just how far ‘free’ digital television has come since its inception. While stations like ftn (which pioneered the broadcast of repeats of ‘Takeshi’s Castle’ several times a day) laid the groundwork for broadcasting habits to come, comparing them to modern broadcast stations like Challenge, PickTV and Dave+1 shows just how much progress has been made in terms of modern digital entertainment.

Finally, we felt a satisfying dichotomy in rediscovering the familiar forms of the digital receiver and on-screen menus, in that they also felt new and unusual when experiencing them in contexts outwith the one or ones in which they were originally encountered. This not only made the second installation of the digital receiver refreshing yet comfortably familiar, but also gave us impetus to recontextualise other potentially withered elements of our lives – marriages, telephone contracts, people we’ve either consciously or subconsciously chosen to reject – if only for the novelty of seeing where that gets us, exactly.

Cons:  We found that instinctually remembering how to navigate an on-screen menu system from 7 or 8 years ago mildly unsettling, as it suggested that in the space of those 7 or 8 years we had not found any information worthy of supplanting such a simple instinct.  In addition to this, the rediscovery of evocative imagery from our pasts (the UKTVHistory logo, for example) at times became an unwanted reminder of how much progress, or lack of progress, had been made since we last experienced them. It was an extra discomfort to realise that several defunct digital stations had simply been rebranded at some point, suggesting that those stations had perhaps ‘moved on’ more than we had ourselves.

 Verdict: On balance, we found that, while rediscovering the familiar forms and ergonomics of an old piece of technology could initially evoke strong, positive emotive memories, many of the memories more loosely associated with the technology (i.e. how much younger you were when you first used it, how you never thought you’d be so excited to see a digital receiver) were not worth rekindling. Some of our testers even found a cruel association between the digital box and its saviour, suggesting that the idea that something was once new, interesting and had a lot to offer could be applied to the receiver as well as the nostalgic individual. Additionally, rescanning the box doesn’t necessarily get rid of the old channels, meaning you basically get two sets of channels to wade through, and the batteries in the remote have probably leaked, making the whole endeavour a bloody waste of time.

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