Milestones in home entertainment

Home entertainment has changed much in the last 100-plus years, but what are the ten key moments in history that have enabled the development of today?s high-tech systems? By Anthony Fordham.

Before we begin: thank you. Thank you for taking the time to look up our site and sit down for a quiet read. We know the temptations to do otherwise are great: that enormous stack of gleaming audio-visual equipment sitting smugly, pride-of-place in your lounge room. Capable of high definition digital output, glorious sound, and crisp detailed images.

Are we already starting to take our kit for granted? Do we just take it as read that next month there?ll be an amazing new release that will redefine our whole concept of entertainment?

Of course, the state of home entertainment today owes much to the work done by thousands of hard working tech folk in the past. Because of the many and disparate visions of individuals and companies from across the globe, we now enjoy the kind of entertainment systems beyond the imaginations of even science-fiction writers.

However, the rise of home entertainment is relatively easy to track. While there are thousands of key influences ? from the development of cheap plastics to the industrialisation of transistor production, to the rise of the Asian tech economies and the cheap labour found within ? we here at Home Entertainment like to think we can put our fingers on ten events or trends, without which there would be no home entertainment industry. Or at least, not one that involves more than singing together around a piano while quaffing pints of turnip vodka.

The list you?ll find in this feature is by no means comprehensive. There are specific tech inventions, such as the audiocassette and the VHS vs Betamax war, that we decided not to list, because they?re simply too specific.

The rise of home entertainment is defined by conflict, by standard-vs-standard, by company-vs-company. And yet some tech has been so influential, we could hardly avoid it.

Something that?s rarely discussed in the field of consumer electronics is how much the industry owes to its geekier brother, the IT industry. Most of today?s devices have functionality or at the very least components that first saw life, or were developed for, IT applications.

Everything from electronic program guides (EPG) to firmware updates for PVRs (personal video recorders) has its roots in IT, and specifically the ?IBM compatible? PC. USB, flash memory readers, even HDMI, while developed for consumer electronics, has IT roots and is compatible with the computer-based DVI.

Basically what we?re saying is if you want us to point the finger at one single trend in home entertainment that is more significant than all the others, we?d have to say it?s the influence of the PC on the gear in your lounge room. Without the PC, all of the wonderful new standards and formats you?ve come to enjoy would not have been possible.

But there?s so much more to the rise of home entertainment. So without further vacillation, here are ten milestones in home entertainment, the absence of any of which would have made for a dramatically different entertainment landscape. Although probably one with fewer reality TV shows.