Dylan Jones: The HD wonder

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The Independent Online

When the first reports of high-definition television (HDTV) started to come through, the reactions were totally consistent: everyone who'd seen it said that it was brilliant. Literally. What I kept hearing was that the difference between ordinary analogue TV and HDTV is the same as the difference between black-and-white and colour. Which is some distance. A sort of marathon, I'd guess. Or at least a 10k.

While I realise that I'm behind the curve - most people in our office seem to have it already, yawn - just last week I finally had HD installed at home. And what a joy it is. For me, it's like listening to the new Beatles album Love in 5.1 surround sound, or indeed any record in 5.1: it sounds the same as it's always sounded, only different, as though you've just had your ears syringed or your spectacles polished by that machine that adds sparkles in the films when fairies appear (I'm talking about children's films here, you understand).

The extraordinary thing about HD is that you only really begin to understand how different it is when you switch back to normal TV. It's then that you realise just how vibrant the colours are, how bright and deep the resolution is, and wonder how the hell they make everything - and I mean the foreground, the background, the whole damn lot - look like it's in focus? I mean, how do they do that?

For the first three days, all I watched was nature programmes - not only because the lions appeared to be so close that they actually frightened the children, but also because they appeared to be the only thing on. But I've since branched out, and have been dipping into sport, movies and documentaries. Life looks a lot better than it used to, although my new TV prism is fairly unforgiving: I was watching a Paul Weller concert the other night and he looked like he'd morphed into Dot Cotton's dad.

Part of me is irritated by the way in which technology forces us to upgrade whenever manufacturers feel like it; by the way in which we are suddenly and apparently randomly informed that, while the CD was perfectly fine up until five minutes ago, all of a sudden it's 5.1 this and Hi-Def that, and how did you think you could ever get away with thinking that whatever you previously had was the be-all and end-all of sonic supremacy?

But in the end, I buckle, just like everyone else. Because even if I loved 78s, there'd be nowhere to buy them, and, guess what? The CD really does sound better!

Originally, I wanted HDTV for the World Cup, and now I've got my wish. I'll have to wait another three-and-a-half years, but what the hell. You can't have everything, as the American comic Steven Wright once said, after all, where would you put it?

Dylan Jones is the editor of GQ