Home Entertainment

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Home Entertainment

Home Entertainment

Home entertainment is the application of technology and the arts for private amusement and enjoyment. The proliferation of the microprocessor and digital media has produced a wide variety of innovative technologies for home entertainment. Digital entertainment systems now found in many homes include portable compact disc (CD) players for listening to music, digital versatile disc (DVD) players for movies and music videos, digital cameras, and game consoles.

People also increasingly use personal computers networked to the Internet for games and chats. Electronic "toys" such as the Sony AIBO robotic dog, high definition television (HDTV), music keyboards and synthesizers, and digital video recorders such as the Philips TiVo are becoming increasingly popular sources of home entertainment as well.

Early Entertainment

The revolution in home entertainment technologies is a relatively new phenomenon. For centuries, most entertainment was almost exclusively a luxury for the wealthy or conducted in public. A major expansion of the traditional public arts such as plays and development of new forms of art such as opera followed the Renaissance period in Europe (c. 13501600). Prior to the development of electricity, the most advanced technology used in performances was musical instruments such as the pipe organ and the piano (from which the modern concept of the computerized electronic keyboard is derived).

The use of modern technology for home entertainment is a product of the Industrial Revolution (c. 17301850) and extends back to the nineteenth century with the mass production of mechanical music boxes. These often-elaborate devices presaged the use of the computer as an entertainment component, with the use of punched holes in metal to program musical notes. Following mechanical music boxes, Hollerith cards, which were first used by the U.S. Census in 1890, were invented and were the precursor to the IBM punched card .

Advent of Electricity

With the growth of the middle class in Europe and the United States beginning in the late 1800s, and the concurrent invention of electrical devices such as motors, new forms of entertainment for the home were developed. For example, Thomas A. Edison (18471931) was a prolific inventor of entertainment systems such as the phonograph and the first movie projection system.

However, the first electronic system for home entertainment was the radio. Invented in 1895 by Guglielmo Marconi (18741937), the radio became a mass medium through the efforts of David Sarnoff at RCA. The first musical broadcast was from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in 1910. The key component of the radioa vacuum tube amplifierspurred the creation of the first digital computers. For example, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Analyzer Computer) developed by the University of Pennsylvania during World War II was composed of thousands of vacuum tubes. Similarly, the transistor , invented at Bell Laboratories, saw its first application in small AM radios. It was later incorporated into computers.

Television was an extension of broadcast radio technology. Like radio and the phonograph, television is now being totally transformed by the digital era. In fact, high definition televisions (HDTVs) are essentially personal computers that are capable of receiving digital broadcasts.

Video Games and Beyond

Following television, the invention of the video game in the early 1970s was the next great home entertainment system and the beginning of the digital era in the home. Game consoles were, in effect, the first home computers. Founded by Nolan Bushnell, Atari produced the first hit video game in 1972. The game, Pong, used simple black and white graphics to represent a virtual Ping Pong (or table tennis) game. Atari also created the first console system for the home in 1975.

Game consoles rapidly grew more sophisticated and popular with the introduction of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional graphics, digital sound, and a variety of input devices such as joysticks and game pads. Computer games also advanced modern graphics techniques such as texturing. Later, more sophisticated game consoles included Nintendo 64 (developed with computer manufacturer SGI) and the Sega Dreamcast. None has been as successful as the Sony Playstation I, of which more than 90 million have been sold since the product's introduction in 1995. The Playstation I took advantage of a digital storage medium, the compact disc (CD), which has become the standard for music recording.

The relationship between entertainment and computing technologies is such that large-scale production tends to drive down the cost of manufacturing new systems and spur further advances. The convergence of entertainment with digital technology has given rise to many exciting possibilities, including the ability to obtain digital music in the form of the Fraunhofer-developed MPEG Layer 3 (or MP3) and streaming video on the World Wide Web. In fact, many people use their personal computers for entertainment at home and work. It also has established the development of new consumer devices such as MP3 players and writeable CD and DVD players for recording music. The Philips TiVo television recorder is essentially a computer that records video to a hard disk.

This new ability to make accurate reproductions of digital media has caused major controversies in copyright law and rules regarding encryption and stenographic techniques such as digital watermarks .

see also Bell Labs; Computer Vision; Copyright; Game Controllers; Games; Graphic Devices; Hollerith, Herman; Home System Software; Marconi, Guglielmo; Robotics; Vacuum Tubes.

Michael R. Macedonia


Macedonia, Michael R. "Why Digital Entertainment Drives the Need for Speed." IEEE Computer 33, no. 2 (2000): 124127.

Herz, J. C. Joystick Nation: How Computer Games Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.

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