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August 20, 2019 Tuesday 01:11:55 PM IST

The Evolution of Media Convergence- From Vacuum Tubes to IoT

Photo by Coffee Bean from Pixabay

By Sreekumar Raghavan
A revolution in electronics started in the 1960's with the use of transistors that replaced vacuum tubes in electrical systems and devices. This helped the transition from a gaseous state (vacuum tubes) which were slow in processing and relay to transistors that were faster and economical in regulating electrical and electronic signals and in the use of power. Some of you may still may be having old, bulky valve radios with wooden cabinet and manual dials for tuning into a station. Compared to electro-mechanical systems used earlier, the solid-state systems had no moving parts and transistors were used as voltage controllers and relaying of signals. 
The two decades from 1960's to 1980's was eventful for the electronics hardware and computer software industry worldwide. Until then analogue systems were in vogue for recording equipment, video players, clocks and most devices in use. An analogue system was based on continuously changing form such as electrical signals, radio waves or film. Hence the terms-analogue TV/radio/phone or analogue system, signal, service.  Manual and semi-automatic systems were used in printing industry as well. Most machines were based on electrical and mechanical engineering systems. 
A photograph could be taken with a polaroid camera that required the use of film rolls. When a roll was completed it had to be rewound and taken to a photo studio where negatives were taken. Based on the negatives, the final print required would have to be chosen by the user. Basically, a camera was an electro-mechanical device power by batteries for flash or opening or closing of shutters.

The Electronic Revolution
With the advent of computers and digital technology (use of binary numbers 0 and 1 denoting on and off state, further innovation in Integrated Circuits (ICs) that deployed more transistors in a single chip it was possible to reduce the size of the machines and devices whether it was radio, television, computer or video cassette players and recorders.
Major Inventions:
1945- ENIAC, the first electronic computer developed by University of Pennsylvania. ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator Analyzer and Computer (ENIAC).Weight 30 tons, required 2000 sq ft space
1948- Invention of Transistor by Bell Labs
1958- Integrated Circuits developed by Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor. It incorproated transistors, capacitors, diodes in a single chip.
1971- First microporcessor invented by Ted Hoff of Intel. It had the same power as the ENIAC.
1974-Advent of Personal Computer - the first assembled kit was called Altair made by a company Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS).
1975 -MITS hired Paul G Allen and Bill Gates to adapt BASIC programming language for Altair. The programmers quickly made some money and started their Microsoft empire. 
1977- Steve Jobs, Stephen Wozniak develped the Apple I with a monitor and screen, followed by Apple II with keyborad and color screen.
1980's- Personal computer revolution with Graphical User Interface (IBM, Xerox, Commodore).
Convergence in Media 
Convergence started happening in the media with the advent of the personal computer and software. In the printing industry, manual and electro-mechanical typesetting was replaced with computerised type setting with the advent of desk top publishing (DTP). With the advent of DTP, it was possible to compose pages using different fonts and text sizes while space was left for images which had to be processed differently. The page output could be taken in a butter paper (transparent sheet) and made into a negative film and subsequently transferred to a plate for printing.  For small newsletters and magazines, the advent of multi-function devices enabled ease of design and printing. Now a printer is integrated with copying, scanning, printing and transmission facilities. 
By 2000, in the photographic industry, the film was replaced with internal memory and SD cards that could store more pictures digitally. It was possible to transfer the pictures taken to a PC and edited for use in a document. Or it could be given to a photo studio for taking prints of the required size.
The 30th anniversary of the founding of World Wide Web was celebrated on 12th March 2019.It was on this day, thirty years ago that Tim Berners-Lee proposed a information management system to help his colleagues employed at CERN in Switzerland to share files They developed the HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and in 1991 it was fully tested and by April 1993 it was ready for public use. It became popular with the launch of Mosaic search engine. 
The earliest websites only provided text and with the advent of browser, Netscape in the mid 1990's it enabled the seamless integration of text, graphics and images. Later on Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox and others started dominating the scene and now it is possible to upload video as well. 
The application of video in internet on a wide scale was made possible with the YouTube that enabled uploading, sharing and transmission of videos. Until then Television output was basically confined to a TV set with either terrestrial connectivity or through a dish that captured signals from satellites. The mid-1990's saw the advent of mobile phones.The earliest mobile phones that were introduced by Motorola, Alcatel, Siemens were all bulky and could only make voice calls at a very high cost.Later on short messaging services (SMS) were introduced and more features including a clock, address book, calendars and other features were incorporated. But mobile phones remained basically a calling and messaging device until the advent of smart phones after 2006. Smart phones enabled data connectivity and hence users could connect to the web and also use it for sending emails.

In 2004, the concept of introducing radio on internet or Internet-Radio-On-Demand was made by Ben Hammersley in an article in Guardian newspaper. Podcasting was thus born - Pod from Apple's iPod and cast taken from broadcast.Adam Curry and Dave Winer are the inventors of Podcasting. 
The Ultimate Convergence
The ultimate convergence has taken place now with the computer (laptops and desktops) and mobile devices (smart phones) able to integrate all sort of devices in a single platform. The computer is now capable of not only showing  photographs,text, images, graphics and audio but also television programming, virtual reality and augmented reality. 
The mobile device has seen the convergence of various applications such as camera, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram (social media), mobile apps for different information, transaction purposes from booking, shopping, payments online, video programming, world wide web, along with traditional use of instant messaging, voice calls. The advent of tablets (that has the features of a PC and a mobile) have changed the way a mobile device can be used in daily life. Documents can be created, audio and video recordings are possible, editing of images and video and several functions have been integrated into PCs and mobile devices.

Now with the advent of Internet -of- Things (IoT), each electronic device is capable of communicating with the other. Your microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, air conditioner are all capable of being connected and managed remotely.` Virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant are capable of understanding and working on our voice commands. It has been integrated into web called ‘Voice Search.’
Definition of Media Convergence
Media convergence may be defined as an integration of various media on a single platform or a medium adapting a feature or set of features of another and integrating it within itself.  The integration adds value to the device or medium becoming more attractive to its users. For eg. A TV with internet facility, smart phone with web browser, camera, audio recording and video recording facility. Or a printer with scanner and fax.

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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