Normally, we try to appeal to the businesses with a reason for them to fix this problem or recognize a piece of their puzzle that is missing, but this week, we would like to explore a more personal side of computers and help others realize that computers can be fun, too.
Many people would disagree with me, but I prefer to have the ability to watch a movie or sporting event in my own home with a beer in one hand and a table full of my favorite Detroit-style or Flint-Style Coney’s (Joe likes Detroit , Jason Likes Flint) within arm’s reach. And yes, it is a sin to call them hot dogs.
We used to go to the movie theater because the experience of the big screen could not be captured in our homes, but with the big screen televisions and the amazing surround sound systems we have now, people like me are becoming more common. I can also remember begging my parents for quarters to spend at my local arcade, but recent years have led to the downfall of the smaller arcade and led to the growth of home gaming and entertainment.
In the midst of all of this, we have seen computers move from a place on our desks, designed as a tool for work and personal communication, to becoming an epicenter for our entertainment. Now, when we say that we use a computer for entertainment, many people go straight to the idea of using social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, while others think about gaming and music. But many do not consider the possibilities that have opened up in the last five or six years.
Back in the early and mid-2000s, an open source project was written that allowed classic Xbox users to turn their gaming system into a device that was used to play their movies and music through their TV. Until then, it was rare to find a computer that had a video card that would even connect to a television much less contain the space needed to copy TV shows, movies, music and photos to the hard drive for playback and viewing.
At this time, many of us were using music sites and services to download and play music off our computers and even stream some smaller videos off of sites like Youtube.com. Nyan cat videos aside, this showed the mass market that it could be possible to use our computers and computer based gaming systems to put our favorite programming at our finger tips rather than rent movies or wait for our favorite TV shows to air again.
Around this time, a few hardware changes in the industry really helped computers achieve “entertainment center” status. First, the bandwidth for our homes became faster and cheaper. This means that our Internet connections became faster and more capable of handling larger amounts of information. NVidia and ATI started adding video connections their video cards that were capable of connecting to televisions, while hard drive sizes more than quadrupled, allowing us to save more to our drives. Not to be outdone, sound cards also became more advanced by supporting multi-channel audio outputs, which gives us the capability of having surround sound directly from our PCs.
A little known fact to the general public is that entertainment specifically gaming has driving the “home and small business” PC market for the last twenty years. Gamers and enthusiasts crave bigger better faster. You don’t need the massive power that a lot of machines today have just to do email and word-processing. Hardware developers keep designing bigger better faster and in turn game developers keep designing games that push the envelope of what are computers can handle. You may see a blog just about this in the near future! (hint hint)
Software also had a large play in the development. Arguably, the most important change we saw was advancement in the codecs used to convert large video files to smaller files. A lot of people will remember the effect that the MP3 format had on the audio industry in the late '90s. It changed the way that our devices stored music by taking what was a large audio file and decreased the size to a manageable portion while still maintaining an acceptable quality. Like MP3s, the new video codecs accomplished the same goal while still maintaining a quality that was acceptable to the general public. With these changes, instead of using DVDs and other hard media, we were able to simply play a file off our hard drive or even stream video from a site like Hulu or Netflix.
Normally, we look at our computers and see a tool that we use for our businesses and some of us would rather not sit behind one when we’re not at work, but computers can bring a lot of convenience and enjoyment to us, as well. It is easy to check the backs of our PCs to see if they have the necessary components to connect them to our TVs. If they don’t, check with your local IT professional and there is usually an inexpensive way to add the necessary component to your home PC to do so.
I still enjoy getting out with my son periodically to go to a football game or a movie, but I also love the ability that I have to simply start a movie with just a few clicks. So, think about it. Are you tied down to simply watching what your provider offers on your TV? Then take your entertainment back and truly watch what you want, when you want it. Oh yeah! Did I forget to mention that you can also play your favorite PC games and check your Facebook on your TV?