Over the past decade, there has been a phenomenal amount of crossover between computer technology and TV technology. This is especially surprising given the fact that most Americans have largely rejected the idea of a living room computer. However, most of the computer technology that has found its way into the living room hasn’t had the overt appearance of a personal computer.
The earliest example of an acceptable piece of computer equipment in the home entertainment center (that wasn’t a video game platform) was the digital TV receiver. The widespread use of these devices actually dates back to the early nineteen nineties when satellite TV became economically viable for typical households. By all outward appearances, it would have been easy to blur digital TV receivers together with any other set top box, but underneath it all was the fact that they converted digital data to the sounds and images that made up TV.
The DVD player was a much more obvious example of the blurring between computer and TV technologies. After all, by the time that DVD players became common, CD-ROM drives had been on computers for years. Since both are optical drives, and computers and DVD players loaded their discs in similar ways, the resemblance was pretty plain. Of course, CD’s had been in stereo systems and computers for years, so people were already used to seeing the resemblance there.
The next major change was the digital video recorder. DVR’s as these devices are more commonly known, can record video onto computer hard disks and then play that video back later. Most models also automatically record whatever the viewer is watching live in order to enable the pausing and rewinding of live TV. Among the advantages that DVR’s have over VCR’s is an ease of programming that none of the manufacturers of VCR’s ever got right. Another advantage of DVR technology is an ability to watch recorded programs in any order. That’s because a hard disk doesn’t store video sequentially like a video tape does. In other words, a video file can simply be accessed without the time wasted cuing through other videos.
Over the years, computers have also taken on a number of the same capabilities that’s previously only been reserved for TV sets. For example, it’s been possible to buy a special TV tuner that can be installed in a computer for years. These devices allow computers users to watch TV right on their computer screens. These days though, this capability is standard on many computers to some extent. For example, most modern computers can display streaming Internet video on their screens and laptop computers have been used to watch DVD’s for years. There are also now special adapters available that contain a TV tuner and connect to laptop computers through a USB port so that users of laptop computers can watch TV on the screens of their laptops.
The most obvious hybrid between computers and TV equipment is the media center computer. These devices are DVD players, DVR’s, digital receivers, and Internet browsing machines all combined into a single unit. They’re likely to be the future of TV technology.