Tip #44:

Let us break out the crystal ball and take you on a ride, as they say at the beginning of some sci-fi movies, to the not so distant future.

Rather than getting into the nitty gritty of one or two very interesting possibilities, we thought we would skim over the main areas we see becoming important in our little world of home electronics over the next few years.

The Internet. Ok I just want to end here. You already know this is an on-going revolution and we are not about to eat up valuable space on it, but the Internet will affect us in ways we might like, too! Like Napster music now, and Paramount movies soon. Your grand kids will laugh at the idea of late return charges, or going out to get a movie. Coming soon will be auto updates to your stereo and video electronics, without the need to come see us (shudder), because the electronic item in question had the brains to call and tell us.

One thing we don’t see, and we are at odds with many on this one, is electronic commerce replacing a visit to the store. It seems to us that when we make a substantial purchase, we like to see and feel what we are getting. No doubt it will have its place, but if it isn’t soap or computer software, nothing beats going to see it and talking to a person who can help. Call us radical.

USB and Firewire . Both of these are cute monikers are intelligent wiring protocols. Electronics of all sorts are moving inexorably toward complete integration, and we are doing a lot of this work right now. Making something seemingly simple happen can sometimes be extremely complex: for example, adjusting your home temperature via the TV remote, or finding the right amount of time to cook the roast in your oven via the Internet. These protocols will eventually spawn an even better one, and that will make simple home automation all that it infers. Then, and only then, will truly genius homes become a reality. Be prepared to wait a bit longer than most people suggest. Five years is too short, ten too long.

DTV and HDTV . The revolution is upon us right now. It has already “emerged”. It will drive wide bandwidth on the Internet, and it will drive DTV (digital television). The entertainment industry will adopt it, and will change the programs you view today to look and sound like talkies from the thirties to your grand kids. Interactive features and a new level of audio and video performance will change your expectations every time you take a load off in the evening.

Hard disc and DVD recorders . Daddy, what’s a “tape”? Get the picture? Recordable DVD players are less than six months away. They will be expensive at first (remember the first VCR or CD players). The dinosaur we call VHS will be around for a few more years. A representative of a large Japanese video recorder manufacturer recently said “VHS is dead, but too stupid to lay down.” If you have a DVD player now, when it gives up the ghost that will be about the right time to look at DVD recorder/players.

There is a new technology emerging which uses a built-in hard disc for recording. It offers many benefits over making a dedicated recording, not the least of which will be no clock setting required. It will allow pausing live TV, by constantly storing to disc anything you watch; it will be able to suggest programming choices based on your viewing habits; and, it will also record that favorite show every time, reliably, and regardless of time slot. It will even record movies if they have your favorite actors, or are of a genre you like. This is our pick for the next big new electronic item. Two years hence, max.

DVD Audio and Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) . These are emerging technologies, although some would argue they’re already here. We already sell DVD Audio players, built into high-end DVD players of today. SACD players are also available as high-end units with music only capabilities. These formats have much higher sampling rate formats than CD for audio only playback. They do sound wonderful and they may take off. But we are old guys and we remember turntables, and “tape”. We remember DBX albums, Elcassette, Beta and a host of other formats “superior” to their rivals in one way or another at the time. Better by itself does not ensure success. Software helps a lot, but even it doesn’t ensure long-term survival. Neither of the formats have tons of it anyhow. Our thoughts here are: get what you want and, if a high-end audio-only playback technology is what you are after, take the plunge. But don’t buy either format convinced you are buying the future audio only format. A big wait and see on this one.

So there are our thoughts. We’ve gone out on a limb and told you what we think, then committed it to paper to allow constant heckling in the future! One thing is for sure: when one looks to the future and the wonderful arena of home electronics, all new technology will look complex until your four year old shows you how it works.