Screen-less TV Looms: Home Movies Anyone?

When you write about new technologies on a daily basis, you tend to ignore press release headlines like Groundbreaking, Game Changing, World’s First, etc. However, you read the releases just in case there is something groundbreaking. One that caught the eye recently read “Hisense Becomes the Trend Setter for the First Time at CES, Setting A New Direction for the Entire Industry.” The headline says a company is plotting a new course for the “entire industry”, but what did the company do and what industry are they referring to? Like I said, you have to read the release.

To make a short story shorter, Hisense claims to be the first to enter the laser-TV market with the new no-screen concept. Essentially, the company makes a television projector called Vidaa Max that uses a laser to project images on just about any flat surface including a dedicated screen if the user chooses to do so. According to Hisense Group's chief scientist Huang Weiping, “No-screen TV" will become the future trend of the industry. A wall, or even a piece of cloth, might serve as the screen.” Does this ring a bell?

Some of you may have fond, or not so fond, memories of your grandparents or other family members, or friends, showing home movies using an 8-mm or 16-mm projector. Usually, at some lull in the family visit, often to the chagrin of most attending, the host or hostess, or both would exclaim the virtues of viewing both their latest and past adventures. Soon thereafter, one or both began the ritual of lugging out and setting up the equipment for a visual feast beyond compute.

            An 8-mm projector and screen.

Said equipment consisted of a large projector, usually of the Bell & Howell persuasion, a tubular device that was wrangled into a white screen on a tripod, and many, often too many circular cans of developed movie film, usually of the Kodak persuasion. Once set up, plugged in, aimed, and warmed up, the projector would send multiple Watts of light and heat through rapidly passing celluloid strips containing some of the most embarrassing images of you and other family members and displaying them on a truly passive and analog screen.

In its time, the personal movie camera and home projector were considered state of the art. Although most setups had no provision for audio, delivering only silent movies, more expensive models included some basic audio features. Though limited, a number of major studio animations, b-list movies, and instruction videos were available on film. These came with a vinyl long- play (LP) record that played somewhat in sync with the video. A tone played on the record to alert the user to start the film. Some models used 0.25-inch magnetic tape for the audio track. This posed even more expense as one needed a reel-to-reel tape recorder/player to sync with the video equipment.

Eventually, the video projector and screen were supplanted by VCRs and large-screen televisions, and the film cameras were replaced with camcorders. Projection TV also had a short run with its heavy and cumbersome projector with RGB eyes on the front and large, motor-driven screen. Installation, which in many cases involved the use of cement, meeting building codes, and constant aiming and calibration of the projector, cost more than equipment. And the picture never matched that of a state-of-the-art CRT television or even came close to movie-theater quality, which projection TV was supposed to emulate.

Early projection-TV projector with three-color beam (RGB)

There were also self-contained projection TVs, usually the size of large bookcase or hutch. Though somewhat better than a standard TV, picture quality on these behemoths still left a lot to be desired.

Self-contained projection TV

At any rate, all of these took a hike into oblivion when inexpensive digital cameras and large flat-screen TVs brought us to where we are today: everybody minding everybody else’s embarrassing business using the high-definition cameras in their cellphones; not much different than n home movies.

Personally, I think screenless TV is a great idea. As long as no one offers to show me home movies on the wall, it will be a brilliant idea. ~MD

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