ISSUE 409: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE--Alan
Local companies offer useful display gadgets
to put your computer presentations on TV - Aug 26
Do you ever have to show what's on your
computer screen to more people than can comfortably crowd around your
monitor? How about make a sale or explain a report using a presentation
graphics program such as PowerPoint?
How to go about showing off your finely tuned
presentation to your audience is a crucial question.
There is nothing more demoralizing than creating an
effective, full-colour screen show, only to print it out as a bunch of
black-and- white acetates to place, one at a time, on an old-fashioned
For some, the answer is a colour projector panel --
costing about $2,000 or so -- that lets them use that overhead
projector to show their presentation right off their computer's screen.
And for those with richer blood, there is always a high-intensity
projector that again can beam its images right from their computer...
but at a cost of $7,000 or more.
For most people, though, the size of their audience
(or the size of their sales!) can't justify the expense of a projector,
yet that audience is still too big to cluster around their monitor. And
b&w acetates are so ... well, low-tech. Besides, you always get
them out of order.
There are a couple of affordable alternatives that
may seem attractive if you want to show off what's on your computer to
a small to medium-sized audience.
A number of vendors, such as Vancouver's AverMedia
(www.aver.com), market units, about the size of a small
paperback novel, that can be used to connect a large-screen TV into a
standard PC or Mac's video output.
Generally, these plug into the back of the computer
with a short cable, then use two different cables -- one to go to
either a VCR's video input or a high-end S-Video plug, and the other to
connect back to your computer monitor. After this easy setup, the
computer's video output appears both on its monitor, and on the
Because TV picture quality is lower than what you get
with a computer monitor, don't expect fantastic detail. Your audience
won't be able to read that 10-point word processor text. As well, the
edges of your computer screen may be cut off. That means no Mac menu
bar or Windows 95 Taskbar on the TV image.
But neither drawback is a major factor with your
typical computer-generated presentation. These typically use big, clear
text that's easy to read across the room when shown on a 28-inch TV
With prices under $250, these units are affordable
and portable enough to travel along with a notebook computer (most of
which have video-output jacks) for on-the-road presentations.
If you don't need to connect to a notebook, you could
also consider a replacement for the video card in your desktop
computer. Canada has become a world leader in producing computer video
cards, with popular products from Quebec's Matrox and Ontario's
ATI Technologies. Often, these products get
targeted at game-players who hope to give their games 3D effects and
faster display speed, but accelerated video can also give a surprising
performance boost to those spreadsheet macros.
ATI's new product line, however, also builds the
capabilities of an add-on TV-output device right onto the video card.
Replace your current PC video card with their PC-2-TV model, and you'll
be able to plug that large-screen TV right into your computer. You get
somewhat better TV picture quality than through the add-on devices, at
about the same price.
As a couple of added bonuses, the accelerated
graphics will make everything on your computer feel faster, and if the
computer is in your home, your kids will be thrilled to be able to play
their computer games on the big-screen TV.
ATI also markets an ATI-TV add-on that does the
opposite: it lets you connect a video source-TV cable, VCR, or
camcorder into your computer, and view it on your high-resolution
computer screen. And their All-in-Wonder card puts both units together
for about $450, being simultaneously an accelerated computer video card
and a TV output device with a built-in TV tuner. TV picture quality on
the computer screen is very crisp, and you can run it full screen or in
a small window, or even in thumbnails of up to 50 channels at once
(updating very slowly).
Of course, none of us would get diverted by
entertainment while at work, but is there a business justification to
getting TV on your computer? Perhaps. You can capture screens from
video output, with good enough quality to use as a graphic source for
But you can also set the software to monitor the
closed-caption text, and automatically capture items that mention your
desired target words. Get the text of TV news items mentioning your
business ... or your competitor's.*
Alan Zisman is a
Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached
at E-mail Alan