Tech Trends on TV: Launching Tech to the Next Level

Jan 7

Here at Design For Use, we take our TV seriously. Whether we’re binge-watching White Collar on Netflix or eagerly awaiting Mad Men every Sunday in the spring at its regularly scheduled time slot, we can’t get enough.

Recently, we’ve been chatting casually about the use of emerging technologies on television. We’re seeing a whole lot of cool new tech (and some old tech in a new light) on TV these days. And sure, a lot of the tech you see on TV might have a little something to do with product placement (i.e., a character using a Mac over a PC because Apple paid more than Toshiba), but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the technology itself; it simply means the tech is so cool that there’s a competitive market out there – which equals more, better, and cooler ideas!

Below are some of our faves from the 2013 TV season.


Tech Forward

Grey’s Anatomy

One of us here at Design For Use (ahem, me, the author) is a diehard, no-holds-barred fan of Grey’s Anatomy – and I have been ever since my sister-in-law tricked me into watching by claiming it was better than House. (It’s not, but there’s definitely something about it.)


Anyway, Grey’s is in its tenth season, and it’s probably well past time for them to close up shop, but as long as they’re making new episodes, I can’t quit it. The cool thing is that, in between all the cheating and lying and heart-wrenching deaths, Grey’s has managed to embrace some serious tech trends that are actually making their way into real hospitals and clinics.

Electronic Medical Record (EMR): A couple seasons ago, Grey’s paralleled the increasing shift by real-life doctors and nurses from thick, paper-based patient charts to the more mobile and manageable tablet-based electronic medical record. EMRs are the future of patient recordkeeping, creating a database that allows for easy transfer of medical records, faster data uploads, and increased empowerment by patients to take control of their health and wellness.

3D Printer: Last month, Meredith applied for a research grant to use a 3D printer to create portal veins to implant in patients, thus paving the way for printable organs, muscles, and bones!

Twitter: A few seasons ago, the interns perplexed the attending docs by live-tweeting surgeries from the OR floor. While the veteran docs were initially resistant to the new technology, they discovered its advantages after a harrowing series of unexplained illnesses that needed a combined knowledge base from around the world to solve in one very time-sensitive episode.


Tech Back

The Goldbergs



This new family comedy is set in the ’80s, and let’s face it – we all miss the ’80s, amIright? Anyway, it’s a comedy about growing up in the ’80s, and it’s chock-full of technology foreshadowing.

Atari, the Sony walkman, the Oregon Trail, and MacGyver are just a few of the tech gems that emerged from the ’80s, when things like Xbox, the iPod, Candy Crush, and Michael Westen were just glimmers in the eye of technology.

Check out this hilarious prequel to Facebook courtesy of The Goldbergs:

When mom Beverly Goldberg learns that her husband, Murray, was engaged prior to meeting her in the 1970s, Bev exclaims something along the lines of: “I wish there were some way I could see a picture of her without anyone knowing.” Ohhh Facebook, how you would have made the ’80s so much less pure….

Then daughter Erica Goldberg suggests that they take a trip to the public library to review the microfiche (!) of the engagement announcement as a solution to her mother’s desire to see Murray’s former fiancee. Cut to a scene at the library where Beverly paces the stacks as Erica trolls the microfiche – mirroring the current tech ecosystem of kids being responsible for navigating tech innovations while the parents are left on the sidelines.


Timeless Tech

Breaking Bad, Burn Notice, and All Other Shows with Black-Market Anything

Whether it’s drugs, guns, organs, or secrets, any show with involvement in the elusive and all-inclusive Black Market depends enormously on that timeless tech favorite: the burner phone.

Put succinctly by the Urban Dictionary, a burner phone is “a prepaid cellular phone, replaced frequently (weekly) (monthly) to avoid leaving a trail and getting caught up in illegal activities.”

Breaking Bad: Antihero Walter White and adorable sidekick Jesse Pinkman use burners constantly to communicate with each other and their various less-than-honorable cohorts to make and distribute crystal meth.

Burn Notice: Even though he’s one of the good guys, Michael Westen – former CIA spy trying to live under the radar – uses burner phones to communicate with his friends so the authorities (and his enemies) can’t find him.

House of Cards: [Spoiler Alert!] Congressman Francis Underwood gave Zoe Barnes a burner phone so he could leak stories to her and manipulate the system! Typical day on Capitol Hill.


More recent uses for the burner phone have expanded beyond illegal activities and into the immoral: namely, the affair. Especially in political circles. Observe:

Scandal: [Spoiler Alert!] President Grant gave his One True Love, Olivia Pope, a burner so they could have late-night love chats anytime they want.


Those are just a few of our current picks, but what about you? Notice any TV tech trends lately you’d like to share? Tweet me your faves @valletown. #techmytv 


Posted by: David Richard

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