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Life After Television - The Coming Transformation of Media and American Life.

In LIFE AFTER TELEVISION - The Coming Transformation of Media and American Life (W.W. Norton & Co, 126 pp.), author George Gilder argues persuasively that television as we know has had it, and that the future lies in fiber optics and the home computer which will take on all the functions that television performs today. On the face of it, the argument sounds ridiculous, but this slim, well-written volume presents its arguments with great force and matching detail. Gilder's theory is not philosophical. It's based strictly on an electronic future, some of which has already come to pass. We'll discover, Gilder maintains, that "television was a technology with supreme powers but deadly flaws: The cultural limits of television,.tolerable when there is no alternative, are unendurable in the face of the new computer technology now on the horizon - technologies in which, happily, the U.S. leads the world."

Life After Television, which intelligently explains how television works, along with the pros and cons of fiber optics, comes to a number of emphatic conclusions and even argues that, by extending the life of analog television into the next century with high definition television, "the Japanese hope to thwart the age of the telecomputer until they can rule it. The American establishment should not allow itself to be sidetracked by this Japanese strategy."

The book quotes Andrew Lippman of the Media Lab at MIT to the effect: "Forget television sets. In three years there won't be any. Instead there will be computers with high-quality display screens. Inside these computers will be digital instructions allowing them to receive ABC, NBC, HBO, BBC and anything we can dream up." Gilder argues that the Japanese how this, and that this view of the future of television is the real reason behind the purchase of Columbia Pictures by Sony.

The book argues that the fiber optic networks should be financed by American industry (including, of course, the telephone and cable companies) and that government should move quickly to help move television into a new technical realm. The heart and soul of broadcasting, as Gilder sees it, will move to the home and will eventually be controlled by the will and preference of the individual. This, he is convinced, will make television, as we know it, obsolete and bring the telecomputer into national focus.

Life After Television may not be everybody's cup of tea and a lot of it is technical, but Gilder has a hack for explaining a complicated subject.,Whether one then goes along with his theory of the decline and fall of television as we know it is up to the reader. Agree or not, this is a stimulating, challenging and extremely well-informed book.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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