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On watching stretched 4:3 images on 16:9 screens

NEW YORK, New York - I don't watch television much, but nowadays the first thing I have to do when I check into a hotel with a wide-screen HDTV is fiddle with it to get the picture down to 4:3 ratio. Genuine widescreen pictures (16:9) are only available if the hotel is shelling out for high-def service (none seem to do this) or grabbing the over-the-air HD signals but they all seem to configure the TV in "stretch" mode so that the 4:3 image gets stretched over the whole screen.

I consider it essentially nuts that people would want to watch the distortion produced by stretching the image. Yet, not only do I see this in hotels and bars, sometimes I go over someone's house and when they're watching a channel being delivered in 4:3 they have it set up to stretch the image. It looks broken to me, crazy, unwatchable, but even this HDTV guide notes that some people prefer to watch the distortion instead of having some of the screen go unused.