, and NBC
ruled the small screen through the 1950s, 1960s, and
1970s. The networks dictated when and what we viewed on
the small screen. The neighborhood commercial movie
governed access to the big screen and big
sound. That scene continued as-is until Cable TV
in the 1980s via programmers such as HBO and
ESPN put a dent in their virtual monopoly. Viewers
gained more choice.
1973 - The VCR
In 1973 the control of when we watched transferred to viewers
via the introduction of the VCR. Viewers could record
late-night TV and watched it the next afternoon. The VCR
was a huge success. Particularly the rental of
prerecorded movies. It produced revolutionary
results. Movie fans gained admission to Hollywood's vast
library. Hollywood filled their bank vaults with a
revenue stream that outpaced the box office. And the
consumer electronics industry raced to meet demand.
Movie theaters still held custody of the big picture and big
sound. But that grip began to unravel when big sound
came home in 1983 with the HiFi Stereo VCR.
The HiFi Stereo VCR married the TV to the high fidelity audio
system. The addition of Dolby Surround Sound cemented
1980 - The Laser Disc
big picture remained exclusively on the walls of commercial
However, the 1980 CES debut of the Pioneer LaserDisc put a
crack in that wall.
The LaserDisc was the first audio/video medium to use a
laser-read optical disc. Many AV enthusiasts are still
surprised to discover that the LaserDisc was an analog
medium. It was frequency-modulated composite video and
analog stereo audio. It added digital audio formats --
Dolby, DTS, and CD -- well into its history.
The LaserDisc is now a footnote in
video history. It never achieved the level of success
many had anticipated. Yet its superior picture and sound
still had a significant influence. Its supporters pined
for larger screens to take advantage of the LaserDiscs
improved video resolution. They also sought larger and
better audio systems to pair with their LaserDiscs and HiFi
The consumer electronics industry seized the
opportunity. CRT TV screens sizes increased from 27 to
40 inches. The rear projection CRT TV, screen sizes from
40 to 80 inches, became a retail superstar. Some offered CRT
projectors focused on screens measuring more than 100
inches. Audio sales jumped with the addition of Dolby
Surround Sound receivers, rear and center speakers, plus
subwoofers. The big picture and big sound had found a
new home that we now call home theater.
1999 - The DVD
The close of the 20th Century ushered in another consumer
electronics revolution with the introduction of the DVD.
The DVD became the most successful launch of a new product in
consumer electronics history.
The DVD digitally encoded 24-bit video data at a sampling rate
of 96KHz. Although it had 7 to 24 times more data
storage than a conventional CD, it was not enough data space
to support the video and audio. MPEG compression was
engaged to "squeeze" the video and audio in its limited data
storage. The DVD's low cost, improved horizontal
, and compact size led
to the demise of the LaserDisc. It also replaced the
sales and rental of videotape.
Video resolution will be defined later in this
2005 - Internet Video Streaming
Increased bandwidth with faster download speeds at a lower
cost created a new video distribution channel -- Internet
Internet streaming has become a significant video distribution
competitor to off-air, cable, and satellite.
2006 - HD Blu-ray
The BluRay disc raised the curtain on the next
generation of a video disc. Its name derived from its
blue-violet laser has a shorter wavelength than the red laser
of the CD and DVD. Its shorter wavelength plus MPEG4
permits almost ten times more data storage than the DVD, which
allows BluRay to support high definition video at 24 frames
per second. It also includes the audio options of
lossless Dolby HD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
2016 - BluRay UltraHD HDR
The UltraHD BluRay disc supports HDR UltraHD video with Dolby
Atmos and DTS surround sound formats.
2020 - off-air NextGenTV and 5G Cellular
The launch of off-air ATSC 3.0 NextGenTV and 5G cellular
networks are adding new AV streaming distribution options.