Rob's Ramblings

Sunday 3 November 2013

Home console for Total Television

Home Console for total television?

Our cover picture, this issue, demonstrates that home electronics of the future need not be stark and futuristic. It is the first actual physical representation of how television and sound of the future might well look in the sitting room of the relatively near future.

This two-part furniture-treatment in glowing rosewood, was presented for the first time ever by TV science pundit James Burke at a Radio Industries gathering in London on the eve of the start of his recent BBC series "Connections", in which he took an idiosyncratic look at the ways TV might be used in the future. The "home video and computer console" as it was described, has been produced by the Thorn Group under its Ferguson brand, to present how it thinks such a console to cover known and expected advances in home electronics might be developed.

The two modules, moving easily on castors, can be brought together as a unit of furniture, or separated for use individually in different parts of a room.

Lest this should be thought an idle flight of fancy, it should be recorded that a 180-page report from the USA has stated that what it calls IVTs (integrated video terminals) will emerge within the next four years. The report predicts that IVTs will be a billion-dollar industry within ten years. It even puts a price of $1400 (£700 or so) on such units in 1982. 

With typical transatlantic zest for new word pictures, the report (from International Resource Development Inc) says the expected strong consumer demand for interactive TV services will lead to the concept of "narrowcasting" as opposed to broadcasting.

The IVT is seen as being the primary home tool for: entertainment, publishing access, home environment scheduling, home admin (payment of bills etc), domestic appliance control, self education and correspondence via electronic mail services.

International Resource Development Inc put Japan ahead when it reported originally, in August last. But it said that the US had a "major opportunity for innovative breakthrough" for the second generation of IVTs.

The report sees the terminals selling through retail outlets initially, but as it "assumes a greater and greater role in the control of other appliances and as the centre of home life, education and correspondence as well as entertainment", it would become more like the motor car in marketing, with specialised dealer outlets.

It sees manufacture moving eventually away from the present home computer manufacturers, and possibly from the present TV makers too, to the "vertically integrated companies with solid-state computer and consumer manufacturing and sales experience"—companies like Texas Instruments and IBM are named as "likely candidates".

Key to the controls -

Starting from the left, the units contain: 

1 A display panel for digital time and  programme selection by LCD (liquid crystal display).
2 Drawer one, with removable remote control for TV programmes, teletext and viewdata operation. Also a
"vote "button by which, if cable TV is established, immediate response to questions asked in a TV studio can be accurately measured. This is already on test in the US.
3 Drawer two, a home video system — the all-electronic operation reduces the size from today's bulkier models.
4 Drawer three, has a floppy disc unit — computer memory store for instant information retrieval.
5 Drawer four, a stereo audio cassette unit with all-electronic function controls. Cassettes can also store
viewdata or other pulse-coded information.
6 A telephone handset moulded to match the cabinet. To be replaced, when available, by a videophone instrument.
7 Drawer five, a keyboard for home computer programming, advanced video games and viewdata messages, plus a print-out facility for messages or processed information.
8 A retractable small screen monitor for checking incoming or outgoing information to be processed by other elements of the console.

And, of course, the large wall-screen with monitor screens for showing other programmes, viewdata and teletext messages, or even pictures from in-house closed-circuit cameras for security or domestic needs.

First published in Viewdata and TV user, January 1979.

(Just think; you could do all that today on a mobile phone! Maybe I should do an emulator..)

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