Tele­vi­sion

Tech Advisor - - FEATURE -

Look around the ma­jor­ity of house­holds in 1995 and you’d find that the TV was the undis­puted king of the home-en­ter­tain­ment world. A big fat CRT that dom­i­nated the front room. And in 1995, in most cases that meant only ana­logue TV – in those days a four-chan­nel af­fair, as the world was as yet mer­ci­fully un­aware of the hi­lar­i­ous ironic in-joke that would grow up to be Chan­nel 5.

The birth of the Premier League in 1992 mas­sively ramped up the num­ber of sub­scribers that Sky had, but it wasn’t un­til 1998 and the launch of the As­tra satel­lite that mod­ern dig­i­tal TV be­came avail­able. Ca­ble TV, ini­tially from NTL and Telewest and later from the uni­fied Vir­gin Media, was a lo­calised niche prod­uct un­til 1996, and free-to-air dig­i­tal TV was a pipe dream (or a non-pipe dream, depend­ing on your method of re­ceiv­ing it). As for stream­ing TV from the web – what web?

In those houses that had a PC, the old beige box was un­likely to be found any­where more prom­i­nent than the spare bed­room. A word pro­cess­ing, print­ing and oc­ca­sional gam­ing de­vice, func­tional, hid­den and unloved by all but geeks.

Fast-for­ward to to­day and Sky TV alone has more than 10 mil­lion sub­scribers, each of whom is able to watch lit­er­ally hun­dreds of chan­nels 24 hours a day. They can view pro­grammes on de­mand, re­motely record to a hard-disk-based recorder, and pause live pro­grammes, re­turn­ing to watch the re­main­der later. Net­flix, Ama­zon Prime and other online stream­ing ser­vices de­liver what­ever you want, when­ever you want.

The PC now sits at the cen­tre of en­ter­tain­ment. And even if the de­vice you’re us­ing to con­sume media isn’t recog­nis­ably a Win­dows PC, I bet that be­neath its branded, set-top box cloth­ing, it’s noth­ing but a com­puter, pro­ces­sor, RAM and all.

In my own front room I can see an old Mac hooked up to a speaker set used prin­ci­pally to play mu­sic. I watch Blu-ray Disc, DVDs and TV on-de­mand from BBC iPlayer and oth­ers via apps built into the TV. Also a PC. The PlayS­ta­tion is some­what ne­glected as a gam­ing de­vice since I got a Wii. Fi­nally, the Sky+ box sits un­der the telly, which is now lit­tle more than a flat-screen dis­play, as the Sky-branded PVR – it­self noth­ing more than a locked-down PC – streams all the TV I want to watch, when I want to watch it.

If I want to lis­ten to ra­dio I stream it from my lap­top, a de­vice that nom­i­nally lives in the of­fice up­stairs, but rarely makes it back there un­less it needs to be charged.

And that’s be­fore we ad­dress the way that de­vices more tra­di­tion­ally recog­nised as PCs now take up space in the lounge. Rare is the TV pro­gramme so grip­ping that I can’t be found pootling about on the web us­ing a lap­top or tablet. And if all else fails I’ll be fid­dling with my smart­phone (much to Mrs Matt’s an­noy­ance). In­deed, there are plenty of house­holds that no longer have a ded­i­cated TV, choos­ing in­stead to watch pro­grammes on-de­mand from a lap­top or PC.

The TV had a good run. But the PC is now the king of the home.

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