June 27, 2011
by Lisa Montgomery
Lisa, I enjoyed your article [about home theaters coming of age ]. It reminded me of when I wrote one for Bose back in the mid-1980s on “Sofa Cinema,” aimed at encouraging Bose owners to start orienting their audio systems around their television, and some products to make that work better (back then there weren’t many). [Mark Cerasuolo, the author of those articles graciously dug up the back issues about the early days of surround-sound; see slideshow.]
Here’s what Mark had to say about home theater way back when: The home theater article was split into two issues, a big subject even in 1986. The first part was a review of “state of the art” for that year in the emerging audio-for-video segment; the second part featured a lot of products that look pretty quaint now. Back then hi-fi VCRs were pretty new, stereo broadcasting was just becoming established, and five-channel and Dolby Pro-Logic were still several years away. The article took home theater in stages: improving and cleaning up mono, going stereo, adding full high-fidelity, and finally rudimentary surround. Pretty ambitious for the time.
Bose also had developed a television along with Zenith with an Acoustic Waveguide inside, a forerunner to their current “Video Wave” system they it now sells in the company stores. Back then it was almost impossible to put decent bass in a TV cabinet for three reasons:
1. The only display technology in the home back then was the CRT (also used in all projectors then) which is very sensitive to magnetic interference, and properly shielding a conventional subwoofer is difficult.
2. TVs then needed considerable ventilation because CRTs generate a lot of heat, which makes integrating a TV with an acoustically-sound subwoofer enclosure with normal-sized bass driver very challenging.
3. Conventional subwoofers would also generate a lot of vibration which could shorten the life of sensitive internal video circuitry and components.
The Bose Acoustic Waveguide was promising in that a compact plastic sub-enclosure with very small, easily-shielded drivers that could do the job and fit into a relatively conventional television set’s footprint Unfortunately, the concept in the Zenith line was relegated to higher-end semi-console TVs (with matching VCR, which wasn’t cheap back then) and never quite caught on. Now they are doing the same thing by combining a Waveguide with an LCD in the Video Wave system.
Mark’s Take on the Next Big Thing:
I think the next big shift in home theater will be in the pico projector area and making it truly personal. I watch movies and downloaded TV shows on my laptop and ipod more than using any other device; I think I just catch the news on TV. Tablet owners use their devices to watch TV much more than any other group. All that shift to personal screens will open up a big market for small projectors to share that video when the viewer wants to. I think that an iPad (or similar device) cradle on a coffee table or bedside table with a high-resolution pico projector sitting next to it (and about the size of that cradle) will be the display system of the near future.
Electronic House Silver Anniversary Coverage
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.