When the Buggles sang, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, they were making a comment on the society that they lived in. Radio was dead, and the box of moving pictures had taken centre stage. Could they have had any inkling that, in thirty-five years’ time, the all-powerful video would be forgotten?…
By Laura Cox
Much like the almost-extinct VHS player, the television screen itself is in steady decline. When my flatmate and I received our first letter asking to pay for a TV licence, I’ll admit that I was a little intimidated. After some deliberation, we finally came to the inevitable conclusion that we weren’t particularly up for forking out £150.00. And guess what? We were absolutely fine.
When we got our second reminder, there was a level of sympathy present as I tossed the letter into the bin. Thanks to iPlayer and a Netflix subscription, there was absolutely no need for a television at all. Even YouTube can provide a substantial number of obscure documentaries for when the chill-out-and-watch-the-box cravings start. There’s no doubt about it, even my battered old laptop is on par with the neglected machine in the corner of our living room. It’s not only that you can watch whatever airs on TV online – you can watch even more. Where on the conventional channels can you find a feature-length interview with two sisters who have refused to shower since Kurt Cobain’s death?
It’s not only massive choice that online streaming can give. You’ve also got to take costs into consideration. A fully functioning, quality laptop can cost around £300 – an annual TV licence alone costs half of that. Then you’ve got to buy the instrument itself, and let’s face it, you’re probably going to let a smarmy salesman convince you to buy the 50” with surround sound. Sure, it’s essentially a home cinema, but you can’t play Spider Solitaire on it. How much does Netflix cost? About a fiver a month. How much do sites like ITV Player cost? Five minutes out of your day to register an account. It’s a bit of a no brainer.
A useful way of charting the rise and fall of television is to look at the development of Sky. The company provides a clear illustration of how the industry is evolving. Sky began as a digital subscription television company, adapting to the changing market by expanding its available services. Through becoming an internet provider, Sky has managed to stay afloat. Despite this, the case still stands – why pay for a Sky Box when you can A.) Sign up for stupidly cheap wireless and B.) Batter your eyelids for your mate’s Netflix password? And although, like me, you would never dream of illegally streaming films online (eh hem), it’s become the norm. Remember the advert played before ‘legal’ film viewings – “You wouldn’t steal a car, so why steal a film?” It’s simply not relevant anymore. If everyone guilty of watching an illegal film online faced charges, then 60% of the UK would be off to court.
It’s almost sad that the TV, the staple of any 21st century home, has come to the end of its reign. In pre-twentieth century dwellings, from the medieval mud hut to the Georgian town-house, the fireplace was the centre of the home. The television set replaced the hearth, highlighting our pursuit of leisure over a need for survival. Entertainment is far more part of our lives today than ever before and this will only continue. The evolution of passive screen-watching to the interactive realm of Virtual Reality (VR) is another indicator this.
So what happens next? With progressively larger mobile phones and the development of wearable technologies, will we even need a screen? VR, the technology which creates convincing and interactive worlds, is a huge factor to consider in changes in both the way we work and play. Who wants to sit in front of Road Cops when you could actually be there in the car? Although the Oculus Rift Developers Kit isn’t exactly cheap, once newer versions are created the headsets will become easily available on sites like eBay and Amazon – in fact, they already are. VR won’t be the premise of a few rich programmers and game developers, it will be part of our lives.
This is where it gets even more interesting. Recently Microsoft have developed Hololens, a type of augmented reality which uses holograms to mix apps like Minecraft with real-life surroundings. Would you rather drop and drag Minecraft bricks on a contained screen, or make a castle fort in your bedroom?
In addition to this, with backing from Google, the company Magic Leap, who describe themselves as ‘an idea’, are developing augmented reality for educational purposes. Remember the sheer joy when the huge TV on wheels was rolled into the classroom? VR and AR are set to take things to a whole new level.
All in all, the future of the television set looks incredibly bleak. The developments of the 21st century (like the World Wide Web and high quality streaming) have administered the poison and it looks like VR, in all its various potential forms, is digging the grave.