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Channel;The big picture

Very soon, the everyday question, "What's on telly tonight?'' will have a new answer: "Whatever you want.'' Digital television brings more channels than you can shake a remote control at, films on demand, and a la carte scheduling. It will make deciding what to watch and when to watch it a leisure activity all on its own. And it's coming to a screen near you.

Two hundred channels at the touch of a button may sound like a channel-hopper's paradise, but it comes at a price. BSkyB and Cable and Wireless will be courting subscribers when they launch competing services in the autumn.

Photographer Louie Psihoyos constructed this wall of 500 televisions to illustrate the capabilities of digital television, inspired by a two-week visit to the heartland of the global multimedia industry, California's Silicon Valley.

Pictures will be sharper and the technology will be smarter (your TV can also be your PC), but will this dazzling array of images and information enlighten our lives or, as this picture suggests, overwhelm us? Technophobes may shudder at the prospect, but square-eyed viewers will be on the edge of their seat. And, if they could summon the energy, couch potatoes will be jumping for joy.

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