Every so often those of us who grew up in the analog era are struck by our new era of instant gratification thanks to digital technology and the internet. It is mind-boggling how much information, of good quality, is at our fingertips day and night.
IDC reports that in 2010 the digital universe exceeded a zettabyte, or 1021 bytes (sorry, but a bug has my WordPress site converting the superscript into a subscript). That’s approaching the prefix limits of the metric system and is equivalent to one trillion gigabytes. For perspective, the first floppy drive my parents bought for me in the early 1980s used pitiful 160 kilobyte disks, and it would take over seven quadrillion of those discs to hold that much information.
Even more important than the vast quantity of digital information is its accessibility. I don’t have to sort through seven quadrillion disks to find what I want. I just type a phrase into Google or Wikipedia or YouTube and almost instantly I have the data, and in readily consumable form to boot. Cisco predicts that in a few years internet traffic will reach a zettabyte per year. Egad!
Note how a huge chunk of that data stream will be internet video, and I’m certainly doing my part. I’ve been a Netflix member since 2004, my plan fluctuating over the years anywhere from 1 up to 5 discs-at-a-time. But improvements in streaming offerings and my living room’s internet connection have left my discs gathering dust while I watch video podcasts, stream old TV shows and movies via Netflix, and watch clips of darn-near-anything on YouTube. And if there is a song I want to hear, but don’t yet have in my digital collection of over 11,000 songs, someone has almost always posted it as a YouTube video clip.
In the early days of video streaming I was disappointed by delays, lags, and video artifacts. But those have mostly disappeared, in part because I replaced my first-generation Apple TV with the newer model, switched from WiFi to hardwired ethernet from my office router to a switch in the living room, and upgraded from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps internet service. (My local cable service now offers a 50 Mbps plan, but all of the video streaming I’m doing would incur extra charges from its 50 GB monthly usage cap, so I have stuck with my 10 Mbps plan which has a daily cap of 5 GB.)
The living room ethernet switch serves my Apple TV, Tivo HD, and Sony Bravia HDTV. I can also stream video via 802.11n WiFi to my iPad 2 and either watch it on the pad or send it on over to the Apple TV to watch the video on my big-screen HDTV. So most days I’m pulling up my favorite video podcasts from the TWiT network using my iPad’s TWiT app and watching them on my HDTV via the Apple TV. And I’ve been gorging myself rewatching episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise from 2001-2005, finding them better than I had remembered the first time around.
So while it is true that I watch almost no live television (I no longer have cable TV and, for example, never turned on a single TV during my entire 11-day vacation to New Mexico and Colorado last month), I do watch video at home. But it isn’t broadcast or cable TV…it is podcasts and old shows and movies and random fluff.
I can indulge childhood nostalgia by pulling up clips from almost any TV series I ever watched. Yesterday I was thinking back to a show I watched when I five years old: Josie and the Pussycats. Yeah, there was some movie version about a decade ago, but I never paid any attention to that. I remembered Josie as being like Scooby-Doo but with better music during the long chase scenes. And the old clips confirm that impression.
But I do have a soft spot for some of its silliness, such as Stop, Look, and Listen, which I actually prefer to its obvious musical source, the Jackson 5′s ABC. (Jump to 37 seconds into the clip for the song.)
Listening to the singing of Kathleen Dougherty (Cathy Dougher) as Josie, Cherie Moore (actress Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie at that impressionable age left me with a fondness for girl groups that would make me a fan of The Bangles when I was in high school and college. And no, I had no idea Cheryl Ladd, who to me was simply Farrah Fawcett-Major‘s replacement on the original Charlie’s Angels, was a singer on the Josie and the Pussycats songs.
It was the vast and accessible internet data archive that not only revealed that interesting tidbit but also revealed that Valerie became the first regularly appearing female black character in a Saturday morning cartoon show thanks to the insistence of music producer Danny Janssen. He had cast the performers for the singing group when Hanna-Barbera tried to change the show into an all-white trio. Janssen refused to recast Patrice Holloway and Hanna-Barbera eventually caved after several weeks of standoff. Interestingly, many notable soul session players in L.A. offered their services to the group at minimal fees out of gratitude for his stance.
The internet also told me that the series theme song was co-written by Hoyt Curtin. And to follow that train of thought, I’ll reveal that I remain quite fond of Hoyt’s bombastic themes for SuperFriends and, especially, Battle of the Planets.
I own an instrumental-only track of that theme and just love to crank it. And I wouldn’t have a clue about Hoyt Curtin, probably best remembered for his Flintstones theme, if it weren’t for the internet.
Continuing the stream-of-consciousness the internet enables, I was exposed to old-style television as a small child by being taken to a few of the studio recordings of the Foreman Scotty TV kiddie show in Oklahoma City. I even got to mount Woody the Birthday Pony.
I was too young for that honor to register in long-term memory. In fact, my only clear memory of Foreman Scotty was one visit to the Channel 4 studios for the show where I saw a monitor which was playing a Flintstones cartoon out of sync with the rest of the show. I was completely puzzled about how the cartoon could be playing “on TV” before they officially started the same cartoon in the live show. I had no idea they could do that! To my little brain it was about as surprising as hearing modern rock songs pounding out of an old-time radio – I thought antique radios should produce antique music!
There are limits to the internet archive: I could not find any Foreman Scotty video clips online, just several stills, although I readily located some video of HoHo the Clown, who I watched for years on Channel 5. Old Ed Birchall was a very sweet man, but frankly he rarely made me HoHo with laughter.
There is no compelling reason to put any extant film or tapes of Foreman Scotty up on the internet, although I presume eventually a few clips will appear. And similarly the catalog of television shows and movies available for streaming will expand. For I’m not the only one with discs gathering dust by the television. The cloud keeps building and building, promising to eventually shower us with almost any information we desire…instantly.