Computers And TV

     Computer technology: That's entertainment, 2000 VIDEO CNN NewsStand's James
Hattori finds out what entertainment might look like in the year 2010 December
31, 1999 Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) (CNN) -- As we reach the year

2000 and the next phase of the Information Age, it's easy to forget that just 10
years ago, the Information Age was stuck on its launching pad. The Internet was
unknown to nearly everyone except university researchers; TV was still patting
itself on the back over cable success; films were searching for the next big
thing; music was sold at record stores. Now, television and computers are
colliding and millions of channels are on the horizon; films are bigger, clearer
and cheaper to make; and music, more than any other industry, is using the

Internet to market itself HDTV will soon be rolling into homes, delivering a
wider screen and digital picture Lucy, where are you? Television is on the brink
of major changes that may forever alter the way we live. It should all happen
with the inevitable switch from analog to digital technology. Right now, most
homes are equipped with analog, the design of which has remained largely
unchanged since the invention of television. The new kid on the block is HD, or
high-definition television, with more than three times the resolution of a
standard analog set. Unfortunately, you can't see HDTV's higher quality on
regular TV. And for now, HDTV does come with high price tags and scarce
programming. But there's little doubt that television signals are going digital.
"I think the world of television and entertainment is poised for explosion,
and that explosion comes about because television becomes digital," says

Andy Lippman, associate director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's
(MIT) Media Lab. It's one of the premiere technology think tanks in the world.
"When television becomes digital, it becomes a lot more like the Internet,
and that means that instead of a hundred or 500 or 1,000 channels, you have to
think of television in terms of 243 million channels and accessing channels from
all around the world." With a laser-pointer-like device, users can click on
images on a interactive TV to purchase clothing and objects used by the actors
on screen That new type of TV becomes interactive, too. For instance, you should
be able to watch a favorite sitcom, and shop at the same time. This, through
innovations like "hypersoap." With underwriting by the JCPenney
company, MIT professor Michael Bove along with a team of MIT students created
the idea. Using a clicker like a remote control, "hypersoap" viewers
can shop by highlighting any clothing or objects they see on the screen,
allowing viewers of to buy the outfits worn by their favorite actors -- if not
quite the shirts off their "Friends'" backs. And shopping is just one
possibility. Interactive TV is also expected to allow viewers to gather
additional relevant information on programs. For example, if you're watching a
cooking program featuring chicken, you'll be able to click one part of the
screen and get the recipe. If you're watching a newscast on a Balkan uprising,
you can click the remote and learn the history of the conflict, along with
latest headlines and video. Your favorite TV show may soon follow you... from
your living room, to your car radio, to your office computer Save that VCR There
are also ideas in the works that can keep us from missing TV, even without using
the VCR. "It's always annoying when one is watching a television
program," says Bove, "and the telephone rings or one has to get into
the car and go drive to work. And it would be possible, using almost the
infrastructure we have right now, to make a television program that when I'm
watching, if I go out in the car, maybe it follows me by means of my pager and
then my car, and when I get to work, it follows me up the steps and on to the
screen of my PC. In fact, it would be very nice to be able to follow your
program that way." And save that VCR. It'll be like the phonograph one day.

Your grandkids will laugh at it as they flip on their DVD players -- if DVD
players aren't outdated by then. George Lucas helped usher in the digital
projection film with "Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" Big
changes on big screen Movie makers are riding the digital wave, too. George

Lucas says he plans to lead the charge of high-budget filmmaking into digital
land, shooting the next "Star Wars" installment digitally on video,
not film. As a way of spurring the development of digital projectors, he had a
month-long showing of a special digital version of 1999's "Star Wars,

Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Along with better quality, films are
getting bigger, too. IMAX and its grand-scale films that make the viewer feel a
part of the action could foreshadow a day when moviegoers enjoy a truly virtual
experience. And filmmakers are relying more on not just digital film, but also
digital animation to fill their screens. "Titanic" and "The

Phantom Menace" are two recent blockbusters that implemented this with
tremendous results. Although Jar-Jar Binks, in all his digital green glory,
wasn't the most popular character, there's talk that one day many films will
include digital actors, presumably because they won't ask for $20 million per
picture. "Edna McCoy's Festival" was an all-digitally produced film
that was shown at the 1999 Austin Film Festival Low-budget filmmakers are
feeling the effects of all this technology, too. Digital tapes are much cheaper
than traditional film stock, but yield better quality and can be edited on a
home computer. It's an independent filmmaker's dream come true. At the 1999

Austin Film Festival, in fact, a group of low-budget auteurs shot a short film
using digital tapes in the span of a week on a $200 budget. Perhaps even more
alluring for independent filmmakers is the idea that they'll always have a place
to screen their films, thanks to the Internet. Some say they foresee a day when
filmmakers will simply e-mail their work to theaters with digital projectors, at
least for a time probably throwing the economy of film distribution into
disarray. The new music Music, of course, has enjoyed the most change so far in
these digital times. MP3, the technology that allows Web surfers to download

CD-quality music, has been written up in most major publications and has caused
old-guard record companies to at once curse and embrace the technology. MP3
audio will help change the way we buy and listen to music But new musicians,
like young filmmakers, see the digital technology as a way to sidestep
traditional avenues to success and use the Internet to distribute their art. The
future of music content should be interesting to monitor, too. The last decade
of the century has seen a broad mix of styles flooding radio stations, including
early-century jazz and swing, Latin pop, folk, rap, folk-rap, hip-hop, dance,

Celtic, new world music, and that old-fashioned, guitar-driven rock 'n' roll. It
seems music artists are continually searching for new ways to communicate, so
perhaps the 2000s will witness the invention of a new instrument -- like the
origination of the electric guitar in the mid-1900s -- that will sail us to new
sound horizons. 'Faster and bigger' Another force that can no longer be ignored
is the electronic $6.3 million gaming industry. It keeps millions of Americans,
mostly teens, entertained. Eye-popping graphics and battling heroes have pushed
sales of electronic games past what's spent by moviegoers every year. "Ultima"
has evolved as video game technology has been improved And what will games you
play in 10 years be like? "The interaction you will have will be much more
like interacting with real people versus what it is right now," says

Richard Garriot, who created the highly popular "Ultima" adventure
games. "You're going to see some very compelling experiences that are
presented in ways which are, you know, well beyond today's movies and
television." Or course, all this is merely educated speculation, and it's
likely that many predictions will miss their mark. But it's safe to say the

Internet and its technologies should have vast effects on all that's
entertainment. "We will see a billion users of the Internet before the end
of the year 2000," says Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of MIT's

Media Lab. "That is basically 20 percent of the planet. "And what's
really frightening, or interesting, depending on your perspective, is that the
change from now will even be faster and bigger than we're expecting." NOTE
----MP3's The only problem with MP3, however, is that it is a "lossy"
compression scheme -- that is, one that must throw out musical data from the
high and low ends of our hearing in order to achieve its small size. When you
expand those files to put on an audio CD, they will not sound as good as the
original tracks, because the information just isn't there. Enter SHN, a file
format gaining popularity with fans of live music. SHN (or shortened) files only
offer about 2:1 compression (unlike the 10:1 ratio common with MP3), but SHN
files are lossless -- in every way the same as the source files from which they
were made. Of course, with less compression, the files are also much larger -- a
full shortened disc can take up about 400MB -- so they're not exactly quick
downloads. But with high-speed DSL and cable modems at home (and those blessed
high-speed lines we've got at work), waiting several hours for a download while
you sleep is much quicker -- and often more reliable -- than setting up and
completing a CD trade by mail. It's also a great way for a single source (or
"seed") to get out to hundreds of people in a hurry. Often, a show
will be transferred from DAT and encoding in SHN format just days after taking
place -- perfect for us music junkies who can't wait to hear Phish's *http://www.phish.com/*
latest version of "Chalkdust Torture" or "You Enjoy Myself."

As any music collector knows, you can never have too much of the same thing. The
software you'll need to take advantage of this great-sounding technology is
called Shorten for Macintosh, which can expand SHN files to either AIFF or WAV
formats, but only compresses WAV files. The free download is still in an early
stage of development, but is very stable--not to mention that it's currently the
only choice for Mac users when it comes to SHN. Remember, however, that you
can't play an SHN file like you would an MP3 -- it must be expanded for
listening or recording onto a CD.