Digging around in my attic’s electronics graveyard, I came across the box from my now long gone (but still much loved) first HD TV … A Hitachi CMP5000WXU 50” plasma. It came to me in a rather odd way as this tech was still fairly rare in 2003.








It’s actually a commercial Pioneer unit made for TV stations, just re-labeled for Hitachi as they had zero ability to make anything remotely like this at that time. I found a pro dealer in the Seattle area that had a few for less than the $11,999 suggested price, for “only” $7500 plus the cost of the mandatory input card ($800) that allows VCR’s and other devices to be shown on to it. FYI, converted to today’s dollar value, that’s over $13,500. Bear in mind, the exact same model with Pioneer’s name on it was even more expensive. The box in which it was shipped, by today’s standards, was overkill in the extreme as these things were hard to get and fragile compared to today’s LCD/LED models. You could safely put six modern flat screen LCDs in it, side by side. Also due to the rarity, they air shipped it to me. Bear in mind, it weighed a little south of a VW due to the sheer amount of glass and the amount of electronics. Well, it sure seemed that much when I tried to pick it up. The cabinet in the media room had to be hacked up to fit this giant screen in the given space of the previous 36” CRT TV.

When fired up the picture was amazing, as I’d never seen such a sharp and clear image outside of experimental units at the CES shows. Of course, the only thing I could watch in HD at that time was PBS, starting at 8pm showing nature films. But people would come to my home to be blown away by the stunning picture, even if the main attraction was squirrels, insects and the occasional story about the US Postal Service. However even a regular DVD looked totally different compared to CRT TV’s … I actually found myself going back and watching videos I’d seen a hundred times … I wasn’t disappointed. It was like watching them for the first time. I seriously didn’t know how much I had missed by watching traditional low-def TV’s.

There were some things that weren’t expected … first, vertigo … it became EXTREMELY disorienting because the picture quality was that good. I’ve only owned the world’s best cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV’s up to that point for 20+years, but plasma TV’s are simply a different level of sharpness and detail. Second, the heat it generated could actually heat the room during winter. I still wonder how much it cost me in electricity.

This January, I’ll be at the (still crippled by the China virus) 2023 CES in Las Vegas. I’ll see the latest 8K sets far larger than the size of an RV, but I still remember looking back in wonder at that very first HD set. In complete sincerity, I’d still love to have one now. Even though it’s only a 720p set, it evokes fond memories like your first car, a crazed run down an Olympic bobsled track or sailing down the Grand canal in Venice. That’s how profound it was for me.

I was conversing with a friend about this, and posed the question: I can now buy a 65” 4K flat-screen smart TV, less than half an inch thick, that is so efficient it can almost run on batteries, in a Walmart Christmas sale for $199 … Why isn’t that happening with cars?

The next time I see Musk … I’ll ask him.

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