Entertainment in the home has been going on for as long as man could make sounds by beating sticks onto walls. We generally associate home entertainment, as we know it today by starting in the last 19th century with the phonograph. Commonly called a gramophone or record player, these devices started to appear around the 1870’s and played recorded sounds, something almost mind-blowing for the time. Users were limited in the selection of sounds and spoken word titles available though and for the most part, this cutting edge technology was only enjoyed by the wealthy.
The radio came about just before the turn of the 20th century and then subsequently allowed families to enjoy music and spoken word in the comfort of their own home; the need to go to an auditorium was no longer needed. Best yet, no records or cylinders needed to be purchased, the sound was transmitted live, a totally new concept for the time. This led to a whole new way for families and friends to bond, crowded around radio sets and often involved several families since the new technology was expensive. Above and beyond that, the availability for live news and weather events to be broadcast, as they were about to happen, would end up forever changing our lives. We could now get news and information the day of, not the day after from a traditional newspaper.
By the 1940’s the television had made it’s mark, once again revolutionizing how families enjoyed entertainment. With live and recorded broadcasts, families could now see what they had been listening to on the radio. The television changed our lives so much, the invention of the TV dinner was introduced soon thereafter to encourage people to eat a meal easily in front of the television as not to miss out on anything.
Audio quality continued to get better throughout the century, and more portable. By the 1940’s reel-to-reel tape had been introduced and was implemented in every big record company to make masters. Record players were in nearly every home by the 1960 and by the mid 60’s the 8-track tape was introduced. This new pocket sized audio format was slightly larger than a pack of cards and greatly more portable than a record. It also didn’t suffer from the same common problem of records, scratches and dust. The 8-track was such a hit that it had started to become a standard option for the automotive industry, as a way to listen to recorded audio on the roads.
The 70’s brought us the cassette tape, a smaller and more portable audio format that allowed for easy home duplication and recording. The cassette tape player became the standard for automobiles and home stereo systems through the 1990’s and led to such amazing products as the mid-80’s Walkman, forever changing how we enjoy music on the go.
1975 was also an evolution in home entertainment when the Betamax was introduced, an economical way for home users to watch, record and watch video again on their own television. 1976 brought the Betamax rival, VHS. This spawned a rather large format war that VHS ultimately won, and started new businesses that allowed the rental of videotapes, rather than purchasing them outright.
The early 80’s saw a huge change in how music was delivered, this time by the Compact Disc, or CD for short. This more refined technology delivered cleaner sound, more space and no need to flip a tape. The sound also didn’t distort after repeated plays, a common problem with cassette tapes when the ribbon would stretch. This new format was expensive and didn’t catch onto the mainstream consumers until the late 80’s, by the mid 90’s though it had become the defacto standard for how to listen to high quality music.
While the VHS tape forever changed how we enjoyed video at home and the Compact Disc gave us the best sound quality, 1995 introduced the new standard in video, with CD quality sound, the DVD. Bringing a new quality of video with unsurpassed sound, the DVD is still a major player in today’s home video market. Like the video cassette rental stores of the last decade, the DVD has led to the introduction of online rental sites, like Netflix, which allow users to have movies delivered right to their home for enjoyment.
Throughout the 1990’s and into the 21st century home televisions continued to evolve, getting thinner, bigger and with better displays. The two most common models are now LCD and Plasma, both feature high-definition displays, often referred to as HD displays and are considerably thinner than the predecessors. These new displays often include hookups for more than just a DVD player though, the ability to use the television as a monitor for a home computer system is also built into most set designs. Now home entertainment isn’t restricted to broadcast television or recorded media on DVDs or CDs, families can stream internet only radio and television stations right to their HD television and surround sound systems.
Moving forward, Summer 2009 will see the introduction of a new technology from IOGEAR, the Wireless Audio / Video Kit will wirelessly connect a home computer or laptop to a television set. This cutting edge technology will mean no wires are needed and the computer, coupled with a broadband Internet connection, can now bring countless new ways to be entertained at home. With two simple parts to the kit, one to be plugged into the computer, the other into the television, setup couldn’t be any easier, and the lack of cables means a clean, simple design.
The second decade of the 21st century is almost among us, the future is still untold, but if things continue to evolve and revolutionize how they have for the last 100 years, and at the pace they have for the last 20 years, we are clearly in for some mind-blowing, cutting edge home entertainment.