"The honeymoon may be over for people being glued to network television," says American University communications professor John Doolittle. "With a VCR they can make their own videos, go out and rent tapes, and not be programmed as much, which probably makes them more sophisticated viewers."
According to the Washington-based Electronics Industry Association, annual sales in new TV technologies have increased dramatically over the past two years: stereo TVs from 240,000 in 1984 to a projected 2.8 million in 1986; large-screen projection TV from 195,000 to 320,000; and VCRs from 7,616,000 to over 12 million. The satellite dish market, still in its infancy stage with 2 million units nationwide, is expected to reach 5 million by 1990, according to the Satellite Television Industry Association (SPACE) in Alexandria.
These technologies are not only providing new applications of television and expanding our vision of it, but also creating new viewers, reactions and effects, some still unknown.
Such video outlets as the Real Life Video Studio in Georgetown have taken video travel and our participation in TV even further. Superimposing our images on a pre-recorded tape, Real Life allows us to view ourselves performing music videos, conducting video tours of Washington, or even fighting laser battles in deep space.
"The VCR is more of a revolution than we think it is because it provides more than a passive involvement with the TV set," says George Carenbauer of Real Life. "It brings you into it."
"In a way, all new technologies make it a more active process, but it's a double-edged sword," says Robert Kubey of Rutgers University. "It does increase even more our expectation for immediate gratification."
There is also the danger that as we become more intensely connected with "New TV," we may become more disconnected from our non-TV worlds. Moreover, the cost and accessibility of emerging technologies may lead to a communications-class war, driving us further apart.
"There are new systems that only a percentage of the population is attending to, can afford, leading to different people having different kinds of information," says Kubey. "To the degree that information is power, we may need to be concerned about the implications of that."
Meanwhile, the communications revolution is rapidly transmitting signals beyond the Walkman. In California, according to Kubey, some innovative clothing designs feature radio components threaded into the fabric and speakers built into the shoulders.
"I think it's conceivable that if we keep going the way we're going, around the mid-21st century people may have microchips implanted in their bodies. Our culture has undergone some very significant changes in entertainment and information technologies."