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Backwards Guide Data

DirecTV TiVo GuideGuide data on televisions (be it on the TiVo, DirecTV, the TV Guide channel, your local Comcast, Adelphia, Time Warner, etc.) puts lower-numbered channels at the top and higher-numbered channels at the bottom. In other words, the typical guide looks like you see to the right: 501 at the top, 512 at the bottom.

In many guides, the channel up and channel down buttons operate as "page up" and "page down." That is, pushing "channel down" will go "down" a page… but this goes up in number. So if you're looking at channel 501 and note that you want to go "down" three channels to channel 504, you have to press the "channel up" button on your remote three times.

In other words, why are guides on just about every system backwards? Why has this upside-down method become the default way we view our guides? I realize that most local channels occupy lower numbers and we are used to reading from top to bottom, but is that enough of a reason to force this backwards system on users or would putting things the right way result in less overall confusion and easier use?

11 Responses to "Backwards Guide Data"

  1. I'd imagine that it's for the same reason that any list (written or on a computer screen) goes from top to bottom. So, in the following list (written in the natural order for an English speaker):

    1
    2
    3
    4
    5

    ... the numbers increase downwards, and increase upwards.

  2. Okay, Clark, then the remote is backwards. Channel up should be at the bottom.

    I'm not suggesting or inferring that I don't know why the guide is the way it is. I'm saying it's backwards when compared to the remote control. You effectively hit the "up" button to go "down" the guide, unless the guide is displayed, in which case the up button pages up (and displays lower-numbered channels).

  3. I think this is more of a case of the channel buttons being double-tasked later on than the guide itself being backwards.

    For instance, many remotes don't use the channel buttons, they instead have separate page up/page down buttons that perform that task. Some vendors just decided at some point that they didn't want to include extra buttons on the remote solely for that task and commandeered the channel buttons to do it.

    However, everyone was already used to the way the guide was organized on-screen, so they didn't want to change that, and they were also used to pressing "up" to go up in the guide, and "down" to go down, so they didn't want to change that either.

    To be honest, I'd never even thought about using the channel buttons as being "backwards". I guess when I'm in "guide mode", I think of them as page up/page down and not actually being channel buttons.

  4. OK, then I misread your post. (That's what I get for surfing at 2 in the morning)

  5. Brian Webster said on December 12, 2006:

    I think this is more of a case of the channel buttons being double-tasked later on than the guide itself being backwards.

    No, I disagree. Moving "up" in number can be accomplished one at a time by pressing the "down" arrow button. The channel (page) up/down button need not be involved for a little logical flip-a-roo.

    Brian Webster said on December 12, 2006:

    To be honest, I'd never even thought about using the channel buttons as being "backwards". I guess when I'm in "guide mode", I think of them as page up/page down and not actually being channel buttons.

    I too have adapted, but on occasion my brain remembers the show I wanted to flip to as being "above" or "below" the show I'm currently watching, and I have to mentally flip that around.

  6. I think when I'm using the guide, I'm thinking of things in purely visual terms. Pressing "up" on the channel button moves up visually in the guide, and that meets what I would expect, visually speaking. When the guide isn't on screen, it's no longer a visual task, so "up" now becomes associated with "higher number" rather than "higher on the screen". Maybe that's just the way my brain works.

    I think the reason the guide is ordered the way it is may be because, the way channels are organized, more people are going to be interested in the lower numbered channels, since everyone receives them, so the lower numbers go at the top of the guide. Then as the numbers get higher, the number of viewers gets lower, generally speaking. This may be less relevant in the age of digital guides, but I guess they're maintaining backwards compatibility of a sort with the paper version. More likely, I bet it's just that nobody ever bothered to think about it.

  7. Brian Webster said on December 12, 2006:

    Maybe that's just the way my brain works.

    I'm not suggesting that my brain nor the brains of most people can't "grasp" this concept. I think most people have very few problems with it.

    That doesn't change the fact that the system is simply and fundamentally backwards.

    Brian Webster said on December 12, 2006:

    I think the reason the guide is ordered the way it is may be because, the way channels are organized, more people are going to be interested in the lower numbered channels, since everyone receives them, so the lower numbers go at the top of the guide.

    I believe it would be just as easy for the guide to display from bottom to top. For example, my guide would show, top to bottom, channels 53, 22, 19, 11, 4, and 2. Channel 2 could be selected. Page up would go up in number, channel up would move up in the guide, etc. There would be no "disconnect" or bass-ackwards issue.

    Brian Webster said on December 12, 2006:

    More likely, I bet it's just that nobody ever bothered to think about it.

    Or when they did, people accused them of having such a confused little mind that they couldn't handle the "flippy" nature of the guide and channel buttons? πŸ˜€

    Let me be clear here: I can use my TV without incident, and I always have. Occasionally, as I said, I have to flip a direction in my head because the guide displays things backwards from how the "channel" button works. Having noticed that recently, I wondered here if it would be easier if the guide was not backwards.

    It would be nice to have a preference setting in our guides to "reverse guide direction" so that we could test this for ourselves. Once our mind re-adjusted to not having to think backwards part of the time, I think the guide might be easier to use.

  8. The way I've always seen it is thus:

    * The guide shows the list of channels in descending order. This makes sense - it's naturally how we list things. Changing this, I think, would be more confusing.

    * When browsing the guide they're not "channel up/down" buttons, they're "scroll up/down" buttons. They work exactly as expected in that sense.

    I've never felt the guide was reversed, so I highly doubt that it'd make it easier (for me, at least) to use.

  9. Dish Network receivers have the option to change the order of channels in preferences. One of the first things I do on new receivers is to make sure the channel order is descending because that makes the most sense to me (pressing up goes to a higher channel number, pressing down goes to a lower channel number). As far as I know, all Dish Network receivers have had this option since the beginning. It's suprising that DirecTV receivers don't have the option.

  10. Rob Jenkins said on December 15, 2006:

    Dish Network receivers have the option to change the order of channels in preferences.

    Nice!

  11. I have my parents' Dish set up the way Rob mentions. It makes the most sense to me: push "Up" on the remote and you move up the list to the upper channels πŸ™‚


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