I know what I want for Christmas, I saw it demonstrated in the Harbour Room at Philips the other day and it’s the greatest inducement to grand larceny I have experienced since I was eight and visited an electric train shop in Melbourne. I have been into toys ever since. Whenever anyone asks me what I want for Christmas I answer anything with an on switch.

Philips’ head office is above the North Sydney railway station, which I guess is why they know about subwoofers – they get low bass thundering through the floor every ten minutes or so – and the harbour room is right at the top. It’s so far up there that the lifts can’t even reach it. You get out at the top floor, go through a fire door and walk up some concrete stairs.

There’s this big glass wall and through it, Sydney harbour in all its glory, with the city and Opera House framed by the old coat hanger herself. Ferries chuff about, container ships flow imperiously by, lots of little people and cars dart around frenetically thinking of other things and Philips’ VIP guests stand there like god, dipping raw fish into wasabi-and-soy and soaking it all in.

Talk about a dumb place for a product launch. Who wants to look at electronic gizmoes with all of this happening? I could see it: “What were they launching,” the esteemed editor asks me, to which I have to reply: “Dunno, I was looking out the window.”

A PR lady snapped me out of it. “Great view,” she said. I immediately adopted Sydney Cool Mode, an automatic reaction in Sydney residents triggered by the suggestion that anyone might be doing a bit better than them. “Yes, it reminds me a great deal of my own*,” I snapped back, then went about looking at products as though the window was a bricked-up wall.

Actually, there was something else that was large and wonderful to look at. It was about the biggest television screen I’ve seen outside Blade Runner and the really impressive thing about it was that it was flat. No rear-project crap that occupies 52 per cent of the average living room, you screw this one to the wall. (And, given its elegant frame, when not watching movies you could project a still of, say, a Fred Williams so that everyone thinks you’re an art collector. Or in Sydney, rich.)

Philips foppishly calls this thing a 42PW9982, and the plasma picture is terrific, generously bright with none of the mud common to big screens. You can watch it from one side without loss of brightness or definition, and it comes with its own subwoofer, a couple of two-way surround speakers and a Dolby Pro Logic decoder. It’s only 11 cm thick and the 16:9 screen measures 106cm. It has a control box but you can hide that anywhere.

It was with a degree of trepidation that I approached the bucks involved, and the PR lady started with a twenty and then got confused by all the nines, finally electing to tell me that it was thirty grand less a dollar. So much for the marketing department’s carefully strategised price positioning.

Given that my own beloved didn’t buy me a birthday present this year (zip, nada, ixnay) I believe a grand gesture is in order for Christmas, and this would do fine. Maybe she could toss in some proper speakers too.

*In truth, the view from our place is largely composed of our strange neighbour’s hot water service, but get the angle right and you can keep an eye on the corner which the ice cream van comes around at four.

Published 1998


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