By H. L. Siddons, Jr.
Category: Computers and Software
A Personal Historical Perspective
Here in the 21st century, everyone is touting
"Convergence" as something new and exciting...yeah, right.
In 1989 I predicted the
convergence of the common PC, TV (television), radio (AM/FM stereo) and phone (telephone).
I envisioned myself using a computer that had the ability to watch television, listen to
the radio, talk on the phone and control, monitor and manage other electric appliances in
I might be wrong, but as far as I am
aware, I was the only one at the time that foresaw this.
Add the TV database system
I mentioned along with Smart home LAN's, and what Compaq
showed at Comdex this fall brings us closer to the reality I imagined. My timeline for
this was the year 2000. It is surprising just how quickly this is coming to pass and
already several technologies exist that promise this marriage.
No one at the time even imagine this possibility,
even though it seemed a logical next step, I mean it just makes sense, and why not?
Perhaps in 1989 the basic hardware/software was there but the internet as an alternate
pathway or gateway was not yet available to the public and maybe this is why convergence
has come to the fore so recently.
TV+PC?? or PC+TV??
Today a huge battle is raising and many from each
side are claiming their side will prevail. Actually neither will and both
will...read on please.
Intel and Microsoft want the PC to be the
integrator of the TV and PC. Television manufacturers and cable companies want the TV to
be the integrator of the PC and the TV. As you read this both is happening and as new
products are developed and improved we should see the differentiation fading.
As early as 1992, WinTV, a card for the PC allowed
me to use Windows 3.1 to view television broadcasts through my PC. I could change channels
and even cut and paste pictures from the television window.
a subsidiary of Intel has taken the concept a step further with a new Windows '95
interface and when Windows '98 comes out, it will part of the operating system, with a TV
guide and all. Also, WaveTop provides similar capabilities.
The Future of TV/PC PC/TV
Today, WEBTV has made an impact, albeit minor so
far. But Microsoft was so impressed that it bought the company. A new version of WEBTV
will allow the viewer to concurrently access the WEB and watch TV at the same time, a
capability only available to those with PC TV cards...
- Today RealAudio
provides a new way to listen to radio stations around the world.
- Today several companies like RealAudio, Microsoft
(NetShow), VDO, VXTREME (recently bought by Microsoft), and many others provide plug-ins
for World Wide Web browsers to receive television-like broadcasts.
- Today, Internet
Phone and Microsoft NetMeeting
provide not only phone like communication (telephony) but the latest versions showcase
video or video conferencing. Yes, I can use my 8mm Sony HandyCam as a television broadcast
station over the internet! Anywhere in the world, live, now...wow. Ok, ok, the quality
still suffers from low bandwidth, but the audio is better than it was a few years ago. And
once the bandwidth issue gets resolved, we should see this convergence swell on the
- In almost two years we see the bandwidth issue
begin to make those needed strides as many cable companies (cable modems), local bell
companies (DSL) and satellite companies begin providing wider bandwidth
- We can listen to a ever-growing list of radio
stations located all over the world with increasing better sound fidelity (stereo and
higher bandwidths). This provides traditional radio stations a whole new market the
goes way beyond their traditional transmitter range and market scope - something that will
increasing expand advertising dollars for those stations as their audience goes worldwide.
- Both Real Audio's latest hybrid release and
Microsoft's recently updated Media Player that comes with Windows '98 actually compliment
and help promote both audio and video across the internet. Internet sites like Broadcast.com and Microsoft's Web Events site provide fresh listings of audio
and video feeds.
- Internet Explorer 5.0 now has a
radio tool bar for quick access
- Music has exploded as MP3
and other technologies showcase potential alternatives to traditional CD distribution.
Once any legal issues get resolved, we should see this really grow.
- While some companies may eventually provide
real-time back-end server TV programming on demand, others like TVIO go beyond the common VCR and instead simply use a
next-generation computer based recording system to record your favorite shows locally but
in higher quality.
- I am sure many of you out there
already have either cable modem service or DSL. I don't have it
yet, but I should very soon. BellSouth promises DSL. And Time-Warner
cable will have Road-Runner service here in the summer.
- I now have Time Warner's
Roadrunner cable modem based service. It provides speeds that make the
internet a joy to surf.
- Recent copyright infringements
and restrictions on music and commercials have forced many online
versions of local radio stations off the air for the time being.
This is deemed as a major setback to the proliferation of online
radio. In addition, music sharing sites like Napster
have been sued, put out of business or forced to alter their file
sharing capabilities. Broadcast.com
was bought out by Yahoo
- I have added DSL from DirectTVDSL.
An alternative to a cable modem service, the connection goes directly
via the phone line and provides comparable broadband speed.
- Internet Radio is now beginning
to make a comeback. Special plug-ins from companies like ChainCast
and HiWire provide a controlled
way to deploy a radio station's broadcast by substituting it's
advertising or sharing bandwidth. Live365
is a new online radio portal that is similar to broadcast.com