Tuesday, April 07, 2009


In January 2008, for reasons passing understanding, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a new TV. I didn't really need one, the old one that I bought in 1997 worked fine, but, I figured, what the heck. A friend of mine had recently bought a widescreen LCD TV and it was faintly cool. So after poring through Consumer Reports, I took the plunge and picked up a Sony Bravia 46-inch LCD TV and it was not bad. Watching the NCAA finals last year in HDTV was pretty cool, although, since I refuse to pay more for cable than I absolutely have to (since I find 99% of all programming these days to be unwatchable), that was one of two channels I get in HD. Mostly I just used it to watch DVDs.

All a moot point, since a couple weeks ago the TV started acting up; everything on the left-hand side of the screen ghosted (including menus, so it was not some user setting that had to be adjusted), and would eventually collapse into a thin horizontal line, like the beginning of The Outer Limits. I did discover that it cleared up if I whacked the side of the TV, like Fred Flintstone or Ralph Kramden used to do. That probably wasn't a viable long-term solution, so I went to Sony's Moebius strip of a support site and, naturally, the FAQs were of no help beyond determining if the TV was plugged in or not or whather I had working retinas.

I used their e-mail support service to describe the problem (and they limit you to 240 characters--is Twitter really the best model for describing what can be complex technical support problems?) and five days later I got a response, which was only a link back to their general support site that I had already checked out and which, as it happens, is where you get the link to send them e-mail. A Moebius strip, indeed. (Funny; they had e-mailed me a customer support satisfaction survey even before they had responded to my actual issue. Needless to say, they got all 0s). However, their response also suggested calling a local service center, and they provdied some options. I looked them up and 2 out of 3 got very low user ratings, but one got good marks, so I called them--Electronics Specialist (just the one?) in Albany.

They came fairly promptly, gave a few preliminary suggestions (something about the "z-control board" or the "Heisenberg compensator" or the "warp drive" or whatever), and hauled it away to crack it open. After two weeks of tests, and swapping out boards, and consulting the I Ching, it was determined that the entire display panel is "bad" and needs to be replaced. The cost? No man can say! But, they did say, likely about as much as I paid for the TV. Bullshit. Entire books could be written about why that is not going to happen.

I guess I could put a poster on it and use it as static decoration. But in all likelhood I will probably try to sell it to someone who can fix it themselves. Maybe I'll call another ssrvice center, but actually Electronics Specialist seemed pretty on the ball. I don't have the time or the inclination to pursue this any further. Also, my new rule is: never buy anything ever unless it is absolutely necessary. And never buy anything from Sony again.

It's funny--Sony used to make decent products. The Trinitron I bought in 1997--and which has more mileage on it than my car--is still working like new (knock on wood). And it will continue to do so until the day it dies...in which case, well, books always work.

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