Remote Control: The Evolution of Home Entertainment

The first real form of media was the radio, which was originally strictly controlled by the U.S. Navy as a means to prevent enemies from obtaining the technology in the early 1900s. Since then, entertainment has come a long way and even reached heights never dreamed possible by early inventors. Here’s a look at the evolution of home entertainment.


Radio Goes Public

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was established in 1919 after the U.S. government released its patents, permitting outside agencies and individuals to use radio technology. The RCA was established to control the distribution of the patents.

Radio would go on to reign as the dominant means of home entertainment for U.S. families for many years. It was such a popular medium that there’s even a name for the period it dominated: The Golden Age of Radio, referring to the period between the 1920s and the 1950s when radio was the primary form of American entertainment.

Radio Ousted by Television

There’s no real definitive date that can be pinpointed as the date the first television was invented. The television came about as a collaboration of inventors over the years, as concepts were developed and new technologies discovered.

The word “television” was actually first used back in 1900 – at the same time radio was beginning to gain speed. Even after televisions became available for consumer use in homes, radio maintained its grip on the home entertainment industry. There were far more radio broadcasts than television broadcasts, and by the year 1948 there were about 102,000 television sets in the U.S. Most, however, were concentrated in the New York area where broadcasting was more readily available.

You’ve probably heard of the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles, run as MTV’s very first broadcast on August 1, 1981. This is the moment that truly represents a major shift in pop culture and American media, despite the fact that many American homes already had televisions at this point.

Video Cassettes Enter the Scene

It’s pretty interesting to look back and see how quickly the home entertainment industry evolved. It was only a short time after television became a reality that companies began to work on the video cassette concept. Early versions came about in the 1950s and 1060s, while Sony introduced the first true prototype in October of 1969.

In 1970, Philips introduced the home video cassette format – called a “VCR.” And by 1975, the VCR concept had gained hold of the American people. Home entertainment had hit a new milestone, with the ability to watch something other than what’s currently being broadcasted.

Only One Problem with Home Entertainment

At this stage in the game, there was just one problem with American home entertainment: It’s a real pain to have to get up every time you want to turn the channel, or to start the VCR. This problem created a need for a device that could control home entertainment options without leaving the couch. Some may say this is also the period during which Americans became lazy. Regardless, it was a significant shift in entertainment. But like VCRs, it wasn’t an extended period of time before the concept of remote control was around – in fact, there were television remote controllers in American homes as early as 1956.

Things like garage door openers have been around since the 1940s, and Germany used remote control technology to control motorboats during WWII. These early devices were simplistic, offering basic functionality like powering on and off.

Today, remote controls are everywhere. The average American family had approximately four remote controls in the year 2000, although some have significantly more, especially considering the average American home contains about 24 electronic gadgets. Remote controls typically contain a component called a membrane switch, which is the keypad portion of a remote control you’re probably most familiar with – it provides the essential functions of the entire device.

Membrane switches, also known as rubber keypads, are used for a wide variety of different applications, remote controls being among the most common. It’s this technology that enables you to control your stereo, DVD players, and even your gas fireplaces.

DVD Players Replace VCRs

Of course, the evolution of home entertainment didn’t stop with VCRs, and it’s still pushing ahead at full speed today. DVDs came about in 1995, and today we have an even more-advanced product known as a Blu-Ray disc. Now we have digital downloads and instant, on-demand streaming that even eliminates the need for a disc at all.

What’s ahead for the home entertainment industry? At present, it sometimes seems as though we can’t move much further ahead than where we are. But genius minds are coming up with ever-more creative innovations every day. In another 10 years, the home entertainment industry as we know it could look like ancient times.

Author Bio

Nicole Enwright contributes on behalf of custom membrane keypad solutions by Pannam, found here, to a variety of tech and new gadget blogs to help users find the product they need.