ZVOX Blog

Who Created The First Home Theater System? Maybe I did!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, May 27, 2011
I know of at least a dozen people who claim to have "invented" home theater. I am not one of them. But it is arguable that I "created” one of the very first -- maybe THE first -- legitimate home theaters...in 1974.
First, a definition. I will define home theater as the combination of three key elements: 1) a sound system capable of wide-range, loud, three-dimensional sound, 2) a television with a large (40" or more) screen and 3) programming material that combines quality video and high-fidelity multi-channel audio.

By the early 1970s "quadraphonic sound" was a big deal, with many companies offering four-channel receivers that typically used some sort of mechanical time-delay or phase manipulation to create the rear-channel signals. And good full-range loudspeakers were relatively plentiful. So the sound system wasn't a tough thing to build. But big TVs were another story.

Prior to 1972 the biggest TV you were likely to find was 25" -- but then Advent Corporation introduced Henry Kloss' amazing VideoBeam 1000 -- a projection TV with an 84" screen. The VideoBeam 1000 paved the way for big screen television as we know it today. It was plenty big enough for a home theater system.

But where, pray tell, was one to find program material that combined entertaining video and multi-channel audio? Cable TV didn't exist. Stereo VCRs didn't exist. DVD players were about 20 years away. The answer? Simulcast broadcasts -- where a TV station and a local FM stereo radio station joined forces to broadcast a live event. Which is exactly what happened in the summer of 1974, when Orchestra Hall opened in downtown Minneapolis.

Orchestra Hall was a big deal -- a beautiful venue with spectacular, state-of-the-art acoustics. Demand for tickets for opening night far exceeded the seating capacity of the hall. So Margaret Moos, a producer at Minnesota Public Radio, had a brainstorm -- why not set up a mini concert hall with big screen TVs and high quality sound and sell tickets to benefit the radio station? That's when she called me.
At the time I was Director of Marketing at a chain of stereo-video stores called, believe it or not, "Sound of Music."* We were one of the first 12 dealers in the country to sell the Advent VideoBeam TV. Working with Margaret, we set up two systems, each comprising of a 7-foot Advent TV, eight Advent loudspeakers and a Marantz quadraphonic receiver. Picture quality and sound quality were really very good. Hundreds of people paid to watch the show -- most of them wearing tuxedos and evening gowns.

It was a truly wonderful night. Excitement was in the air. Champagne was flowing. Beethoven ruled. And home theater proved to be almost as good as being there.



* Nine years later, "Sound of Music" changed its name to Best Buy. Since then they've become rather more successful than they were in 1974.

0 comments :

Upshot Commerce
Ecommerce
Shopping Cart Software by
Upshot Commerce