On June 1st 2012, Century Stereo celebrates 62 years in business since originally being founded by Phil Sunseri way back in 1950.
As we reflected on our many years in business we began the conversation about the evolution of home entertainment because it really has changed dramatically and was very much in its infancy when Phil started Audio Phil’s so long ago. Many of the men in our company not only lived it but a few were actually working in our industry for much of this time so I asked them to tell me about “game changers”, the technology introduced in our market that revolutionized the way we enjoy music, television and movies.
Below is timeline of these important technological advancements.
1949: RCA Victor releases the 45 record.
1952: Emery Cook develops the binaural record.
Stereo records would become widespread by 1957. Stereo recordings were a vast improvement sonically over the mono recording. Although Gary Lawson, 40 year industry veteran and Buyer, does note there were some very good mono records stereo was much more lifelike giving you a stage and the beginnings of the music lovers pursuit for recorded music that was comparable to the original performance.
1956: Acoustic Research released the AR-1
The AR-1, developed by Edgar Villchur and Henry Kloss, utilizing an acoustic suspension woofer was the first of its kind and revolutionary for its time because it offered low frequency low distortion performance in a small enclosure (relative to the other speakers on the market at the time) and was affordably priced. Jeff Wilson, 40 year veteran and Customer Service Manager, believes this speaker paved the way for all the smaller high performance speakers that have followed. He notes that before this speaker came out speakers were literally the size of refrigerators!
1963: Developed by Phillips, the Compact Cassette was introduced in the USA
1973: Nakamichi releases the first high fidelity tape deck.
Although cassette tapes had been available for some time, Nakamichi was the first to make a high fidelity, high quality player.
1977: Developed by JVC, The first VHS players are released in the USA
VHS was the first video for purchase and collection by the consumer and remained popular until the 2000s.
1980: Pioneer Electronics markets the Laserdisc
Although its run was short lived, it was the first high quality audio and video disc, providing better picture than VHS and better audio than a cassette tape. Jeff Wilson credits the Laserdisc with fueling the movement towards an integrated entertainment system in the home saying that before this it was more common to have a HiFi system completely separate from the family television. Now there was a reason to integrate the two.
1982: Sony releases the first CD player, the CDP-101
Small, portable, touted as virtually indestructible and the highest quality audio to date, the CD took off in popularity and soon made the cassette tape obsolete.
1984: Sony releases the first portable CD player, the Walkman
1987: The first programmable universal remote is invented, the CL9, created by Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder of Apple)
Although this was not a game changer, Steve is credited with creating the first programmable remote, Steve Wozniak was a longtime customer of Century Stereo and Rick Bronner, our Managing Partner and 30+ year veteran says that Steve actually gave him a CL9 to play with even before it was released to the public. Although clunky in operation Rick praises Steve for the cool ergonomic design of its time and the invention clearly demonstrates the forward thinking of the Apple gang.
1992: Fujitsu introduces the world’s first full color flat panel display
Prior to this, TVs were big and bulky. The flat panel display allowed consumers to have a bigger high quality picture without all the bulk and these could even be mounted on the wall. Today, other display technologies are relics while flat panel technologies, LED and Plasma, rule.
1996: First HDTV broadcast
Gary Lawson credits high definition content as driving the market towards the “Big Screen TV” because finally there was a picture that actually looked great on a bigger screen. Before HD Gary said displays weren’t bigger than 42” but today screens 65”-80” are commonplace.
1996: Sonicwave.com becomes America’s first Internet radio station
1997: DVD shown at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
The highest quality home theater media format of its time, the DVD was the size of CD and as durable and easy to collect. It would go on to replace VHS has the preferred media format in a few short years.
1997: Marantz RC-2000, “The Remote of the Gods”
Rick Bronner says the RC2000 was the first universal remote that really allowed you to do macros, which are a series of commands sent to your system at the press of one button. This remote would be followed by the Phillips Pronto, another game changer that was the first affordable touchscreen remote. The universal remote has become an essential component in today’s ever advancing home entertainment system for ease of use for the consumer.
1999: TiVo and ReplayTV introduce the DVR (Digital Video Recorder)
Rick Bronner believes the introduction of a component that allowed you to record shows from television was a game changer because it allowed consumers to watch TV on their time, not on TV’s time.
1997: The original form of WiFi was released.
2001: Apple released the first generation iPod
Unveiled on October 23rd, Steve Jobs said it was “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Although MP3 players had been around, Apple successfully created a product with an easy to use interface and suddenly vast amount of music were at your fingertips in a tiny package. Other forms just couldn’t compete when it came to portability and convenience. The iPod, a portable device, significantly impacted the way consumers listened to music in the home by making so much music readily accessible and as a way to access internet radio stations like Pandora. Today the focus is on computer audio for the home but the iPod was certainly the gateway to that.
2006: Sony releases the first BD-ROM player, the BDP-S1
Initially released a few months after Toshiba’s HD-DVD, Sony would win the race and become the standard for HD video when they incorporated it into their hugely successful gaming console, the PlayStation.
We’d love to hear from you.
What would you have included on this list?
What do you think are “game changers” that are right around the corner?
Leave us a comment below.