June 2003



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 my home.

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.

Today, InterCast, 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 internet.

1999 Update:

  • 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.

2000 Update:

  • 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.

2001 Update:

  • 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

2002 Update:

  • 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 and Windowsmedia.com 

2003 Update:


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