There is talk of an information revolution with the advancement of technology witnessed in the media today. We are in a time of rapid change of technology in the media industry and we wonder if that translates to a revolution or is just a change of events as history goes. This essay looks deep into the history of technological advancements in the media industry to bring out the understanding that the current rapid advancement of media technology is an evolution rather than a revolution.
Creation of the Media Industry
The history of media technology starts with the invention of the phonograph in 1877. Later on in 1881 to 1900, the gramophone appeared and started gaining popularity. During this period, the proponents of each technology set up companies to market their technologies. The effect of the separate developments was a turf war of which is better between the two technologies. The proponents of the gramophone highlighted how 52 discs fit into a space of only eight cylinders. The format war lasted for 30 years. After Thomas Edison’s invention of a light bulb, Lee De Forest’s invention became the most significant in the early 20th century. Forest came up with an electronic advancement of the light bulb called the Audion vacuum tube. Lee De Forest based his invention on the developments done earlier by Fleming and Edison. The Audion tube instead of lonely rectifying AC current was capable of amplifying the current. Later the Triode replaced the Audion name, because of amplification, and became the accepted way of amplifying. Transistors replaced it after half a century. The triode is notably the invention that made inexpensive amplification possible. Without it, there would be no wireless voice transmissions as they are now (CED Magic, n.d.).
Disc records came to being in 1913 as diamond disc records introduced by Edison. Their popularity came about with the availability of phonographs that were capable of using electrically recorded discs. Phonographs and discs became popular in American households just like by pianos. The entry of Radio Corporation of America made the radio much more popular than the phonograph. Advancement in wireless radio signal amplification and perfection of the super-heterodyne resulted to a development of a new radio receiver. The tuning of the receiver needed no antenna and had a reduced static charge. The Radio Corporation of America bought the development patent and popularized the radio receiver. After the radio came the television in 1926. Initially there were two types of television prototypes. One prototype used a spinning mechanical Nipkow Disc while the other was tube-based. The early television types had only a maximum of 30 lines of resolution (CED Magic, n.d.).
The cathode ray tube television was an amalgamation of several inventions. The kinescope invention modified the cathode ray tube. The CRT was a modification of the Crookes tube. Perfection occurred when current directed through an anode ring. Lastly, the CRT TV came to be when the directed current was projected to a fluorescent coating placed at the reverse edge of the tube. Another notable technological breakthrough came in the form of a transistor in 1947. It became the most important breakthrough in electronics of the 20th century. The transistor allowed the creation of integrated circuits as well as microprocessors. Integrated circuits and microprocessors form the basic architecture of every electronic device today. The transistor is scalable to small sizes and uses very little heat in comparison with the triode that whose invention occurred earlier in the century. Transistors made it a possibility to develop electronic devices with digital computation ability. These devices known as the first personal computers appeared in the 1950s. The initial devices consisted of an array of lights illuminating on a front panel. Their memory capacities were of 12 bits (CED Magic, n.d.).
IBM 701’s series of computers became the pioneers of the first electronic computers in 1952. They had the capacity to use magnetic tapes; however, they still relied on punched cards. Interactive TV shows began with the after the world war two and grew with the popularity of the television. After the war broadcast TV became fully functional however, the level of interaction in the early shows was very low. In the first interactive show viewers had to overlay a plastic on the TV screen and use crayons to draw on it as a feedback to the puzzles on the TV show (CED Magic, n.d.).
Color TV appeared in 1954 and was sold for roughly US $1000 however, mass adoption was delayed until the 1960s. Initially two companies were contesting for the approval of their standard color as the industry standard. Radio Corporation of America was triumphant in this battle because its standard was backward compatible. During the transition, some companies developed converters that attached to black & white TVs to make them colored. The converters had a mechanical nature. The year 1958 saw the invention of the integrated circuit. This occurred after the invention of the transistor led to a practice of connecting components on ceramic wafers. Ceramic wafers were then assembled as micro modules. Micro modules were favored for their economical use of space however; they did not reduce the number of connections needed. The integrated circuit solved this nightmare by enabling one monolith piece with a silicon surface to function as a wide variety of component. The monolith could become a diode, resistor, capacitor or even transistors. The first full functioning integrated circuit became officially available in 1959 (Briggs & Burke, 2009).
Live television broadcasts were realized in 1962 when the AT & T satellite was launched. It initially did live transmissions of TV images from the United States to France. Digital satellites were later developed as advancements on the satellite technology continued. Consumer activation of digital satellites systems was first done in 1994. The digital satellite systems had an option of choosing to receive signals from a variety of transponders to ensure viewers get clear transmissions.
Software Integration in the Media Industry
Intel Company developed the Intel 4004 microprocessor for use in the Busicom type of calculators. However, the company realized the multi-purpose functionality of the chip and developed it into a microprocessor. Intel 4004 was a 4-bit microprocessor that became commercially available in 1971. Other than the technological advancements highlighted above, the media industry has benefited from inventions that relied on the innovations highlighted. Image dissectors became the first electrical scanners for television images and provided better quality images than those scanned by iconoscopes. The Image dissector translated the image into a pattern of electrons and then transmitted the electrons through an aperture. In principle, the image dissector became the first electronic scanner. An electronic pick-up tube patented in the image dissector is essentially the core of electronic cameras and is responsible for the capture of stable pictures.
While television capacity was first demonstrated as early as 1911, its mass adoption was realized in the 1950s after the World War II. Mass adoption was made possible by the spare capacity of the electronics industry realized after military electronic component demand fell with the end of the war. To cushion against unemployment, the FCC advocated for the manufacturing of televisions. A similar move occurred with radios in 1918. The TV was marketed to the electronics industry as the best tool to deliver sophisticated advertising to increase consumer demand and prevent a collapse of the economy. To sustain demand for TV, the broadcast industry was formed to deliver programs that would inform, entertain and educate viewers. Early television programs were hybrid radio scripts. The hardware developments formed a foundation for software advancement that has transformed the media industry tremendously. Software development also follows the same pattern of hardware development where one invention occurs as a further or parallel development of a previous development (LIVE Team, 2010).
The 1980s serve the beginning of notable milestones in software developments that have characterized the media industry. The first digital audio discs appeared in 1982 and were manufacture by CBS-Sony in Japan. The company also came up with a duplicator that cut wholesale costs on the software. Sony later published their standard for recordable CD in 1990 known as the orange book that contained their specifications for Compact Disc-Digital Audio (CD-DA). The Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) format was started in 1996 to handle the requirements of high-definition video storage. The technology is similar to the Compact disc and relies on a greater compression. Both CD and DVD have become popular storage mediums (Seifert, Leleux & Tucci, 2008).
Media content production
With the advancement in storage-capacity came the development of rich multimedia content. Advancement in computing power of new microprocessor has also made it possible to develop richer software. Initial software development that made a notable change in the media industry was the desktop publishing software. Personal computers equipped with desktop publishing software meant that anyone could manipulate images and text. The computer became the publishing tool with the introduction of software like Adobe PageMaker. Manipulation occurred in the digital realm and then the user obtained printouts of the finished manipulation. Other than desktop publishing with software like Adobe PageMaker, other improved software made it possible to make adjustments on digital images. Photoshop is an example of such software that has become known for the digital imaging revolution. These software breakthroughs created the digital darkroom. Color correction, file conversions, painting, and coloring could now be done digitally and fast. In addition, reproduction of digital manipulation as an advantage attracted more people to embrace the software technologies and increase its popularity (Your3dsource.com n.d.).
Image manipulation software first handled two-dimensional graphic only. To create animation, single images are manipulated and then made to play in sequence to form a continuous motion picture. First animated production involved hundreds of controls that rendered still images to make one move in the final motion picture. A new breakthrough technology by DreamWorks has created the possibility of moving high-definition rendered graphics in real time. Real time rendering allows the video experience to be interactive and the viewer is able to move around the video environment as if it were a real environment (Enderle, 2010).
The media production industry relies on motion-capture editing software to create content for viewers at home and in movie theatres as well as through a variety of mobile devices. The industry has relied on software such as LightWave, Softimage, Houdini and 3ds that delivered animations. Such software relies on the cleanup tool for data called Filmbox. Advancement in the motion capture editing software has created a new technology now known as Motion Builder developed by the Montreal Based Kaydara company. The software improves rendering speed and comes with a new animation engine. The software gives artists unmatched capabilities in developing performances. It is also more user-intuitive and friendly, a feature that will allow it to gain mass adoption (Katz, 2002).
Media Content Delivery
Sophisticated image manipulation software and motion-capture editing software have made it possible for the media industry to develop highly interactive productions. The advancement of personal computers and the increased power of available software have meant that, anybody can become a provider of media content. However, a breakthrough in the delivery of content to the consumers has had the greatest impact on the media industry. The internet allowed consumers to receive media content on demand however slow speeds only allowed a limited amount of content to be delivered through the internet. In addition, content delivered through the internet had to be scaled down in quality to make it occupy less bandwidth and transmit faster.
The advent of broadband internet has eliminated the obstacles of bandwidth and created a steaming phenomenon. Instead of having to wait until multimedia files finish downloading, consumers can now start consuming the content as other parts download in the background. Streaming has changed how the media industry delivers content. Now full broadcasts can be paused, recorded or rewind at the pleasure of the viewer. While previously it was only possible to record broadcasts for later viewing, the internet delivery has boosted interactivity of the viewer with the program (Topic, 2002).
Another notable software advancement that has greatly influenced the media industry is cloud computing. Creation of rich interactive content requires use of advanced software and subsequent use of powerful computers. However, the advent of broadband internet has allowed fast connection of personal computers to remote servers such that tasks performed at the server reflect in real time on the client computer. This ability has been exploited with creation of server-based software that takes the bulk of processing tasks from the client computer. Consumers therefore do not have to acquire powerful computers to complete the same tasks instead; they acquire a fast internet connection to the server. Cloud computing, the name of the feature, has allowed media industry to develop very interactive content and deliver it to consumers without subjecting consumers to new hardware requirements. A notable example has been in the delivery of multimedia games that allow several players connected to the server to play against each other even though they are remotely located (PRWeb, 2011).
Features of cloud computing have been mimicked by another computational feature called crowd sourcing. Crowdsourcing is somehow different because it extends the server powerfulness to include individual computational powers of all client computers connected to it. The feature allows several people to collaborate on a single project using the cumulative power of their computers. The media industry has seen development of crowd sourced movies and other productions. Such productions benefit from a diverse input base that ensures they become richer in content and offer real viewing experiences to viewers. Crowd sourcing lowers the costs of production especially when individuals volunteer on the project (Scott, 2010).
Other than crowd sourcing and cloud computing, social network websites have contributed to the development and delivery of new media. Social networks have created digital communities of people and changed how people interact on the internet. They have taken over the time that was used on traditional media such as television. As a result, media companies have been forced to become more social and internet savvy to reach their consumers. Delivery of content is now centered on new media such a stream casts of audio and video and broadcasts are slowly fading away (Anderson, 2010).
To sum up, software developments have dependent on hardware developments. However, they develop faster than hardware innovations and sometimes warrant the development of new hardware. As software develops, new forms of making and delivering content to consumers are realized. On the other hand, consumers’ interaction with new software affects their preference in delivery of media content. The advancement of new media and social network as well as improving broadband access has created a new on demand culture for media content and improved interactivity.
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