How to Avoid Getting Headaches While Watching TV with Your Dad

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of DISH for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

A friend told me the following story:

The last time I visited my dad's house for the holidays, I was happy to find that my old man had finally entered the 21st century: he had a high-definition television in his living room, mounted to the wall above his fireplace. Dad had finally ditched (well, moved to another room, actually) his bulky old cathode ray tube in favor of a liquid crystal display, and I was looking forward to the both of us playing couch potatoes for the good part of a week, enjoying classic holiday movies and a Christmas Day football game in high definition while imbibing, barbecuing, and generally having a festive time. It turns out that even though dad had a nice new TV, his cable provider didn't have many HD channels to deliver to it.

Still, Dad and I had a good enough visit — but it could have been a great visit. Everyone has different tastes, and often family members are at odds over what to watch on TV; dad and I couldn't even agree on how to enjoy the few shows we could agree on watching. I actually found the experience to be painful at times, having to retreat to the guest room in order to avoid the inevitable headache that would come from the way my dad prefers his TV experience. You see, my dad enjoys his television shows loud and wide — that is, at a loud enough volume for the neighbors to appreciate, and displayed across the full width of his widescreen television.

Try watching a few hours of standard definition programming stretched out across a widescreen TV, and you'll understand what I'm talking about when I say I get a headache from watching TV with my dad. Everything appears distorted, and wider than it should. Actors have long complained about TV making them look fat, but seeing shows taped prior to the widescreen era makes them appear absurdly out of proportion with reality, as if looking at oneself in a funhouse mirror. Athletes' bodies move in impossible ways. The Twilight Zone marathon bends your mind uncomfortably (and not due to the stories presented in its episodes).

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It turns out that my friend's dad had another TV in the house, one located in a guest room where he would have been able to comfortably enjoy his favorite shows while his dad was enjoying his favorite reruns of All in the Family stretched out across the widescreen (making Archie Bunker appear in need of a treadmill instead of his trusty ol' armchair). Yet my friend was unable to watch anything other than whatever it was his dad was watching on the living room TV. Whenever his father used his remote to change the channel on his HDTV upstairs, the television in the guest room where my friend was staying would simultaneously switch to the same channel.

So when my friend grew bored of whatever it was his dad was watching, he spent his time in the living room, trying to hear whatever it was his dad was trying to tell him while avoiding staring at the distorted images on the widescreen television for too long. How to Avoid Getting Headaches Watching TV with Your DadThough it seems he enjoyed most of the time he spent with his dad, it seems the occasion would have been far more enjoyable without the headaches.

One way of avoiding them would have been for his dad to have been subscribed to a provider that had more suitable programming for an HDTV, such as DISH, the satellite television network provider that provides the most HD and international programming in the US. That way, the football game that the father and son tried to enjoy on Christmas Day would have fit the width of the display, rather than caused his dad to have fits whenever my friend switched the standard definition broadcast to its native resolution.

Aside from arguing over how the programming should be displayed, my dad and I had differences of opinion over what shows we liked to watch. I was a guest in his house, so my dad bent to my will much of the time, but I believe our time together would have gone far smoother if I'd been able to simply retreat to the guest room where I was staying to watch the programs I was in the mood to enjoy.

The ideal solution would have been a feature called The Hopper, which is exclusively being offered by DISH. The Hopper is a whole-home HD DVR system that enables a family of just about any size to enjoy their favorite television programming either live or recorded, and on a variety of TVs and mobile devices either inside or outside the home. The Hopper enables the simultaneous recording of six different shows during prime time, as well as the ability to store up to 2,000 hours of programming and to instantly skip commercials in recorded prime time TV on ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.

When my dad first got a DVR, I showed him how he could pause live TV and resume it whenever he wanted to. I particularly remember watching an episode of the The Twilight Zone, delighting my dad with my ability to use his remote control to pause the episode while one of us ran off to grab a beverage from the garage fridge or to use the restroom. When he realized he could rewind and replay as often as he wished during a football game — and then return to the live game once he'd reviewed a play enough — he was sold on the concept. Now, he can't image not being able to pause and rewind live television.

DISH has a feature called AutoHop, which not only enables viewers to record and skip commercials, but is the only service to provide commercial-free recordings of prime time TV on ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. That way, viewers don't have to bother waiting for the right moment to press a button to skip ads; they simply use AutoHop to have their DISH DVR do it for them. And with PrimeTime Anytime, my friend and his father could have had up to six different prime time ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC shows recorded simultaneously while they were enjoying their Christmas Day football game. Then they could have enjoyed the shows ad-free at any time within their week together. Not only that, but with the Hopper, they could have enjoyed this functionality in the guest room or in any room in the house, pausing, rewinding, and recording live TV from any TV. Plus, anything recorded from one TV could be accessed from any other TV in the house, so while my friend's dad was recording The Twilight Zone marathon in the living room, my friend could continue watching the episodes later in the evening once he had retreated to the guest room for the night.

DISH is offering even more highly anticipated features, and at no additional charge to existing subscribers. DISH Anywhere transforms your mobile device into a portable TV through an app that can be installed on either Apple or Android smartphones or tablets. And for those of us who prefer to tote around a laptop, DISH will be providing an online portal where customers can watch live and recorded TV any time, and from anywhere. The feature also allows you to remotely take control of your DVR to schedule and manage your recordings. Another feature DISH is now offering is called Hopper Transfers. With Hopper Transfers, you can enjoy programs while on the road, such as when you're traveling without an Internet connection.

All you have to do is transfer your DVR recordings to your iPad with the free Hopper Transfers app before you leave the house. Then, enjoy your recorded television shows or movies while you're out of range of a wireless Internet connection. Think air travel, where Internet access is expensive (when it's available at all). Or road trips, where your iPad's constant searching for a data connection can drain the tablet's battery far more quickly than simply watching a recording. (Plus, the recording will very likely be stutter-free when it's played from the iPad's built-in storage.)

My dad is now a DISH subscriber, so I expect the next time I visit him we'll have far less tension over what to watch or how to enjoy our favorite television programming. Once I feel my head begin to throb because the volume of the living room TV is too loud, I'll simply retreat to another room, where I can watch the same program (or another one) at a lower volume. If my dad wants to see a replay of an impossible catch a dozen times in a row, he can head to his bedroom, where he can replay the game all he wants while I continue watching the action in real time.

The Hopper is free when you sign up for DISH, and packages start at only $24.99 for 12 months (with a 24-month commitment). Restrictions apply. You can Learn more about the Hopper, Follow DISH on Twitter, or Like DISH on Facebook!

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.