TV = Brain Off / Computer = Brain On

In 2004 Steve Jobs famously said about TV vs. computers, “We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.” It was one of those statements that seemed like a throwaway (and one most of us did the old head bobbing up-n-down about), but it’s become more and more true since then.

My wife and I often take our laptops upstairs and lie in bed finishing up the days emails, exploring, and increasingly watching “TV”. In fact, my brain gets SO turned on that I find it hard to go to sleep…so I’ve actually stopped doing that in order to relax, quiet down and nod off (and older relatives have cautioned on how “you’re going to ruin your marriage” by playing with our laptops at night vs. with each other).

When I first saw the delightful Alec Baldwin Hulu ad on the Super Bowl — with its clear and humorous reference on how TV watching turned your brain into a gelatinous mush they could scoop out and eat (since they’re aliens, after all) — the brilliance of the campaign took my breath away.

It did so because of the NBC team’s recognition that most of us in the always-on, always-connected participation culture — increasingly turning our attention away from all traditional mediums like TV, radio, newspapers and magazines — view television watching as the mind numbing, brain mushing pursuit it is, but still one we turn to when we choose to be entertained passively.

The team obviously recognized that doing a fun advertisement to get our attention, directly addressing this obvious fact within it and, of course, delivering a service that meets our needs whether we’re watching an actual television set or have our brains turned on with our computing devices, they nailed it.

Jobs nailed it too over four years ago with that statement. He didn’t say anything about turning your brain on to perform tasks, but rather computers as an extension, a stimulator of our brains.

As we all move away from purely linear, serial tasks and processes toward a world where we drink in information, news, entertainment while connecting with others in a parallel and associative way, I’m eager to live in this time of awakening where more and more of us are living in a perpetual state of having our brains turned on.


  1. Marius Popescu on March 18, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I first had a WOW moment, I completely agreed to the “TV Jobs’ remark. Then I thought: OK, but what does brain ON/OFF mean?

    Unfortunately (usually :p), it seems to me that Computer=Brain ON also means “family OFF” AND “telephone OFF” AND “kids OFF” AND “tennis OFF” AND …

  2. Rick Mahn on March 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Steve, this is a great point – one that is subtle yet powerful. The computer as a tool to ‘turn on’ the creativity in the brain (I want to say ‘a no-brainer’ ;-P) seems to be very true.

    The tools that we have available to us today to project our thoughts to the world are phenomonal. They all in their own way, remove barriers and allow us to explore those random thoughts we have more often. As software continues to become simpler and easier to use, our ability to concentrate on those random ideas increases.

    I too am excited to be able to turn my brain on more often in this creative age – and how lucky are we to be here? We are living the future.


  3. Tv on your computer on April 29, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I would have to agree with the fact that Tv all contains nothing but brainless activity. To even simply function a computer however, you need to use your brain. Tv is becoming obsolete, and moreso a viewing tool rather than people watching cable TV. its just becoming strictly used as a screen to view, thus i think the computer is best

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Posts by Category

Archives (2004 – Present)

Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.