6 Predictions For the Coming Video Revolution (of 1986)

Remember 1986? My memories of the time are a bit hazy, since I was just three years old and all. But apparently, the poor saps of the mid-1980s didn't even have streaming HD movies pouring through their internet tubes. The horror!

The September 28, 1986 edition of the Doylestown Intelligencer in Pennsylvania published an article about the "video revolution" that was to come. In their depiction of the early 21st century, they optimistically characterized the media landscape as providing countless opportunities to better "enjoy the fruits of our culture."

The thing about many of these predictions is just how mundane they feel today. But in 1986, they were incredibly forward-thinking (if somewhat conservative) visions for home entertainment.

From the Doylestown Intelligencer:

  • More broadcast stations will take to the air and the advent of a fourth network this fall may be just the beginning of a trend toward a proliferation of networks.
  • Industry experts predict the number of premium cable services will grow slowly or remain stable while the number of basic services increases. It may become accepted practice for local cable distributors to charge by the channel.
  • Today's technology will be incorporated into the home with many — if not most — families owning large-screen stereo television sets with an integrated VCR, laser disc video and audio systems and home computers with connections to external database services.
  • Newspapers will benefit from improved presses and will display more color photographs and more graphics. Some stock quotations and news information may be selected by a personal computer from wire services available in the home.
  • Movie theaters will remain strong and videotape or videodisc sales will follow on the heels of box office success.
  • Merchandisers will increasingly offer their wares on television or cable permitting viewers to inspect and order goods without getting up from their chairs.

The one prediction that sticks out to me as the most conservative is actually the one that was perhaps most radical for the time: news info provided by personal computer.

Predictions about newspapers of the future often centered around some kind of computer (remember that PCs were just beginning to take off in mainstream America) but these visions often included mention of "wire services." The implication being that everyone would pay directly for the old-fashioned print news that was getting piped into their homes — it would just come electronically.

Of course, some people still pay newspapers directly for their news. But I'd wager you haven't gotten a bill from Gizmodo in quite a while. (But if you do get one, don't forget to make the check out to Matt Novak...)


Image: Bedroom scanned from the 1984 book The Media Design Book