Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi

Larry Dent is the owner of Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi.

These articles were written for the Islander Weekly.

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Larry's Tech Talk

Back To The Future!

I have to admit that I own a fairly large “live bootleg concert” collection of cassette tapes and CD-R’s. Everything I have is legal (DON’T SHOOT OFFICER!). Back in the day there were several touring bands that not only allowed taping of live shows, but encouraged taping and trading of their live performances. It was a lot of fun, duplicating analog tapes and meeting new fans with similar musical tastes. You might even consider it a large “counter culture”. Everybody called the tapes “bootleg” because there were no record studio labels on them. We circulated tapes below the retail radar and it was a lot of fun. I would hear phrases like, hey man, I got that Merriweather Post or Red Rocks Show from 85”, Jerry was incredible on “Shakedown Street”! Anyway, last week I was thinking of a cool jam, so I dusted off the tape deck and put in the show I wanted to hear. It sounded OK, a little flat, certainly acceptable, but it just didn’t reach out and grab me. Then it hit me, “Great Scott! I gotta get back to the future”!

By now you should be remembering Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, a DeLorean, and the infamous “flux capacitor”. A few button clicks later and my new “network” a/v receiver was in motion and my favorite Pandora digital music was playing via the internet. Almost stuck in the not so distant analog past! That was a CLOSE CALL! GREAT SCOTT! I am wondering who the Scot was that Christopher Lloyd was referring to?

So, if we had a DeLorean time machine with a “flux capacitor” and could advance ourselves to the future, what might we find? OK, predicting the future is never an easy thing, but I think we can easily say that the “internet” will be a part of the immediate future. We refer to the world wide web as the internet, but it might called something else one day. Then there are private network service providers that connect us to the www like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T that we pay for. A few years ago, we carried around cassette tapes for our Sony Walkmans (spell check on the plural of Walkman). Then we had CD Walkmans (or is it Walkmen?). Now we have IPods or Droids or similar portable devices that store our music, photos and even videos (if you have the storage capacity). We don’t carry tapes or discs anymore (aka media), because our devices have miniature hard drives built in. These devices are capable of storing days and days of audio and video entertainment. Yeah, but that’s old news LD, let’s get back to the future!

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that personal hard drives might go away. A few weeks ago Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Computer) announced a new Apple service known as “The I-Cloud”. As I understand it, this computer hardware manufacturer is launching yet another service (remember the ITunes service?). The I-Cloud service will automatically sync all of your photos, videos, and music to Apple’s huge storage silos with your computer, IPod, IPad or similar device. In the event of a lost IPod, or damaged device, the I-Cloud service will be there to upload all of your digital entertainment to the new device. Transferring your music to a new generation device will be easy. Your investment in music and videos as well as your personal photos will be backed up and safe.

Now, let’s consider the networks of the future. The wireless 3G network of today is nice, but speed and availability can become an issue. For instance, I can drive down the highway and listen to Pandora (or similar service) wirelessly from the internet via my IPhone. My IPhone outputs the Pandora signal to my vehicle’s sound system and usually doesn’t miss a note. That probably wouldn’t be the case with video, which requires a lot more “bandwidth”. The wireless 4G network is available now and is 10 times faster than the 3G network. So if we go back to the future, how fast will our networks be? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think it’s safe to say future networks will be highly available and very fast. Entire cities will be networked, and if you’re under the umbrella, you will have wi-fi connectivity. Maybe networks will be like cell phones now, you leave one cell zone and enter another cell zone? I’m not sure about that idea, but I would bet that network service providers will make their service highly available and very, very fast. And consumers will take network connectivity for granted.

Let’s combine the idea of very fast, highly available networks with desktop and portable devices. Guess what? Nobody will need that hard drive. All of your software, photos, music, and videos will reside somewhere else in the world and you will have immediate access to whatever you want whenever you want. To the user, the experience will be transparent All of your “stuff” will actually reside on a huge storage device(s) in India, Taiwan, East Jah-blip or wherever. And when future network communications are fast enough, personal computers and other devices won’t need processing capabilities at all. Remember “dumb terminals” from the old mainframe computer days? Immediate access to whatever audio or video file or software program you want will be available. I’m thinking the phrase “full circle” might be appropriate. The downside? Sorry, it also means another monthly service payment! Hey technology is cool, but it ain’t free!

Microsoft is also talking about “cloud computing” and I’m sure many other companies will embrace and market the concept. It will be very interesting to see where the concept will go. But somehow “the cloud” will no doubt be a big part of consumer level home entertainment. Hey, really our entertainment future is really “ALL ABOUT THE NETWORK”!

So, let’s see, Apple markets I-devices and I-services. If Steve Jobs was Batman, would we have Bat-pads? Bat-pods? The Bat-cloud? And sorry, but “I” have to do this…..Bat-phones? If you’re not asleep yet, thanks for reading for this column!

Great Scott! I have to get back to the future!