Reading, Reading, Reading


Yes, I can read a distant number-plate, but I can't read my glarsing satnav

Yes, I can read a distant number-plate, but I can’t read my glarsing satnav

A couple of years ago, after decades of wearing contact lenses and feeling a little flush, I spent £4000 having laser surgery to correct my short-sightedness.  The next day I turned up at work and found that I couldn’t read my computer.  I can’t read my BLOODY computer.  How my colleagues laughed at my expensively acquired status as a bloody specky.

So I went back to Optical Express and we discovered, at first, that they had slightly over-corrected my myopia.  So I spent months having my adjusted with glasses until I worked out (almost without their help) that the reason I couldn’t read wasn’t because of their over-correction to my distance vision, but because if you have the operation after 40-ish that’s what happens – you will need reading glasses.  It’s an expected effect of the operation.

This crucial piece of information appears to have been slipped to me sotto voce when I was in a state of pre-operation distraction (I did sign a waiver).  I certainly don’t remember it.

Anyway, I may have made a simple calculation – that I would prefer to see distant things clearly and unaided than be able to read without glasses. Bad decision.

Distance is there all the time, so contact lenses or glasses fix them all day.  It doesn’t need thinking about.

But reading.  It happens on and off ALL DAY.  I’m either reading, or about to (and if I’m not reading, I might be talking to someone near to me – they go blurry too).  The glasses have to be near me at all times – constantly being taken out of pockets.  They are dotted around the house.  I curse the day I fixed my eyes.  They were fixed good and proper.  Oh yes.

I was put in mind of this while reading the excellent book Netymology this morning. This ‘linguistic celebration of the digital world’, was kindly sent to me by its author Tom Chatfield, after I met him at a recent work event. I had praised his recent article about TV and other gadgets. It is full of wisdom, but I particularly liked this:

The defining illusion of television is escape — the belief that burning hour after hour in front of the TV screen offers a refuge from the mundane world, even while it ever-more-deeply embeds us in the embrace of our sofas. But the defining illusion of interactive screens is agency. Suffused with feedback, an entire universe of data at our fingertips, we’re inclined to confuse knowledge with control, and information with comprehension.

Tom Chatfield.  Proud wearer of glasses. Speaking at TED

Tom Chatfield. Proud wearer of glasses. Speaking at TED

Tom’s book celebrates the way the internet and broader digital culture has ushered in a lexicon of wonderful words.  Sometimes these are re-booted (another digital word) revivals (such as avatar, troll), and sometimes newly minted neologisms (LOL, meh). There’s a short-version of his ideas here.

Anyway, one motor behind the adoption of these words is the way we are all reading so much – ‘The twenty-first century is a hypertextual arena in several senses.  Digital words are interconnected by active links…but they are also above measure in their supply, their distribution and the roles they play (Netymology P1). 

It’s mostly the bloody phone, of course.  Wonderful, yes, but I can’t use it any more without having my reading bins (click on for more words about spectacles).

So what’s this got to do with TV?

Consider the way we watch TV. It’s in the middle-distance – if we need glasses for short-sightedness, we need them for television.  It’s an all-day option.  As TV screens have grown, the sensory experience has deepened and widened.

But there’s a clue in the weak performance of HD channels even in those homes with HD TVs, which get a fraction of the viewing of their fuzzy parent. Viewers don’t want the hassle of scrolling up to the HD option.  TV is that ambient.  Viewing goes on, below our consciousness – the way eyes work best.  When we choose to watch TV on other devices (the one you’re reading this on) the people who need reading glasses will need to keep putting them on.  Younger people don’t need to bother, but older people do.  It’s another reason why older people can’t be neutral about screen-size in the way young people can be (and even they usually aren’t).  And the one thing we know about young people is that the lucky ones will be older one day. The bigger screen becomes more attractive, the more hassle that is required to look at a small one.

Accompanying the heralded growth in multi-screening (fiddling with a phone while watching TV), the biggest commercial opportunity may not be in second screen applications to enable you to play alone or chat, but in bifocals, chains for carrying glasses around your neck, and other bi-screen glass technologies to enable you to do both.

And laser surgery perhaps?


I don’t see the point.  Couldn’t if I wanted to.


While we’re talking about expensive but useless procedures on eyes, check THIS out.