People hate change. Whether it’s the first light bulb or the next big shift in TV, you can count on the usual cadre of critics to come out of the woodwork asking, “What’s the point?” They might say that the tech is too expensive or that it won’t matter to the mass consumer. They might even say it’s impossible. And sometimes they’re right. But other times they’re oh so wrong.
Let’s take a moment and celebrate how wrong the naysayers can be.
Cars are so ubiquitous as to deserve animated feature films these days, but they had a ways to go before reaching the masses. Between Karl Benz creating the first true, gasoline-powered automobile around 1885 and Henry Ford producing his classic Model Ts for the average American in 1908, they were considered a luxury item.
In fact, in 1899, the Literary Digest, a then-prestigious periodical of note, wrote most authoritatively:
“The ordinary type of “horseless carriage” is at present a luxury for the wealthy, and altho its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.”
Yeah, no. While no one’s knocking the bicycle, it’s easy to see just how off the mark they turned out to be.
As a young Robert H. Goddard once said, “...it has often proved true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” Later on, knowing that had to suck.
Goddard was the rocket scientist of his day. At least, that’s how we look back on his contributions to the field. Considered one of the fathers of modern rocketry, his inventions, including a multi-stage rocket, had profound influence on the Space Age and spaceflight as we know it. That the rocket still captivates us at all is due in large part to his work.
But people scoffed at his research his entire career. In 1920, shortly after he published his seminal “On a Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes,” the New York Times famously published a withering critique of his work:
“As a method of sending a missile to the higher, and even highest, part of the earth's atmospheric envelope, Professor Goddard's multiple-charge rocket is a practicable, and therefore promising device... It is when one considers the multiple-charge rocket as a traveler to the moon that one begins to doubt and looks again, to see if the dispatch announcing the professor's purposes and hopes says that he is working under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution.”
These days, we take e-commerce for granted because it’s so ingrained. We can buy whole wardrobes from our computers, movies to our tablets, and music directly to our phones from just about anywhere we are. Good job, internet.
Even back in the 60s, we acknowledged that we might maybe stop relying on the old Mom and Pops and brick-and-mortars, long before Tim Berners-Lee launched the web. It was a possibility. But there was just something about the joy of shopping, ever the American pastime, that couldn’t be undone. Because, well, the ladies love it?
Back in 1966, Time Magazine, in an essay titled “The Futurists” (how appropriate) stated confidently:
“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop – because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”
It was a darker time. Good on Time for calling themselves out on it.
And now television. It's kind of a big deal. Marshall McLuhan, in Understanding Media, called it a “cool” medium, one that demands that the viewer actively participate with the messages being conveyed. Which...is arguable, but that statement underscores how important the television was to 20th century communication. Remember Kennedy v. Nixon? Yeah.
Except that even experts were divided on whether or not the public would latch onto it. Lee DeForest, inventor and one of the fathers of the “electronic age”, derided the early TV back in 1926, saying:
“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.”
Seriously! Things didn’t go quite as expected, though. As of May 2013, there are 115.6 million televisions in American homes. So there’s that.
What about HDTV? Back in 1998, the New York Times expressed shock that the next major push for the medium should be so expensive. $8,000? Good heavens! Except those prices have since dropped, and you can buy an HDTV pretty cheap these days.
And what about Ultra-HD 4K, the next next big thing? Much ink has already been spilled saying it’s not worth your time, whether because such high resolution (four times that of 1080p, or 8 million pixels) is wasted on frail human eyes or because it’s just too expensive.
The critics are already being proved wrong. Take Sony’s 4K offerings. Each one touts TRILUMINOS display tech that pushes how far a TV can produce natural color, along with Motionflow™ XR 960 technology to make movement in-frame almost impossibly smooth. And all this starts at $5,000, already more affordable than this new platform's forbears when they first hit the scene. And that's right now. Imagine picking up a 4K set in five years.
All this is why you'll want to keep paying attention to where 4K goes, and why you should be excited about it. After all, innovation is supposed to challenge the status quo. Check out how Sony is pushing the envelope right here.