End of the line for the tube

`TV as we know it will disappear by the year 2000'. And revolutionary products are on sale now. Janet Knight reports

That square black box sitting in the corner of your living-room is about to disappear. Soon you'll be watching the news, Panorama and EastEnders on huge plasma screens so thin that you can hang them on the wall.

Not only will they have unrivalled sound and picture quality; you'll even be able to interact with the characters in your favourite soap. Sounds far-fetched? Well, maybe joining in the milking at Emmerdale is pushing it, but the technology to do so is not far away.

To give us a glimpse of what the future holds, Bang & Olufsen have unveiled the BeoCenter AV5, which incorporates a flat-screen TV, a radio, a CD player and a powerful loudspeaker system.

With a flick of the remote control you can swivel the screen to wherever you want. When you're ready to watch, an electronic curtain unveils the screen. If your room becomes lighter or darker, the TV automatically adjusts the picture. The CD player has CD-I (interactive) technology, allowing you to use CD videos and photo CDs, where images are stored on disk rather than in an album.

Of course, all this comes at a price, and at pounds 4,650 it is a hefty one. Not everyone will be rushing out with a chequebook when the new BeoCenter goes on sale next month, but most of us will soon own or rent a slim and wide TV screen, because the cathode-ray tubes that make our sets so bulky are being replaced with sleek, 10cm-deep plasma gas screens.

Philips are at the cutting edge of design and technology with their wide- screen 32PW9763C TV (price pounds l,899). It has full surround sound, crystal- clear pictures, a split screen allowing you to watch two TV programmes side by side, and an electronic TV guide.

Wide screens may be expensive now, but they will get cheaper - just as colour TV sets did in the Fifties, when they began by costing as much as a family car. Already prices are tumbling. Last year, customers paid pounds 2,000 for a 32in Philips model which now costs pounds l,400.

As fast as the design is changing, so, too, is the technology. Not content with five terrestrial TV stations and myriad cable and satellite channels, next year we see the arrival of digital TV. This will give access to hundreds of programmes from around the world, via a little box in the living-room. Who will operate it, and how much it will cost, are issues yet to be finalised.

"The TV as we know it will disappear by the year 2000," says Simon Poulter, of Philips. "Instead of 21in-wide sets we will have a variety of "intelligent" screens up to 42in wide, which we'll use for watching TV, gathering information and accessing our e-mail."

Bang & Olufsen's Malcolm Savill has a clear vision of the future for TV technology. "It's going to be really interactive," he predicts. "The viewer will be able to choose the storyline for a drama and whether they want a sad or happy ending.

"An interactive disc would also give you more information about what you're watching. If it's a wildlife programme, you may want to ask some questions about the animals, or the country."

He also believes that: "The future is in linking the computer and TV, so that you can channel programmes from the Internet... making it an information and entertainment centre capable of gathering material from all over the world."

The only thing blocking interactive TV is a disagreement within the industry as to the type of technology to be adopted as the standard: CD-I or DVD (digital versatile disc format, which looks to be the current favourite).

It's all a far cry from the first flickering black-and-white screens that were switched on when BBC TV was born, at 3pm on 2 November 1936. At that time, fewer than 400 sets could receive the service, via a transmitter with a 30-mile radius. A year later, 2,000 families huddled around monster-sized mahogany sets with 10-inch screens, marvelling at history being made with the coronation of George VI.

One of the first sets was HMV's Television Autoradiogram, which cost 120 guineas. By today's standards it could hardly be called user-friendly. The picture was reflected on to a mirror on the TV's lid, while the radio and record player snapped, crackled and popped like a breakfast cereal.

It wasn't long before HMV and Philips were mass-producing them, joined in the Fifties by Bang & Olufsen, whose original sets have become design classics. Sales continued to rise as sets dropped in price, from pounds 60 to as little as pounds 25. And when Elizabeth was crowned Queen in 1953, 20 million people tuned in. Now 98 per cent of the UK population has a TV set, and one in four households has three.

With 4 million new sets being sold each year, it won't be long before we're all reaching for the popcorn, dimming the lights and spending a night in at the movies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
The programme was a look back at the Mad Men-y age of the Sixties and Seventies

Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help

Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help

PPI complaints were down by about a half

Banks face fresh wave of PPI compensation claims after landmark ruling

The PPI scandal has already cost Britain’s banks around £24 billion

Some experts warn that the bond sell-off may continue until the autumn, when the US Federal Reserve is expected to lift interest rates

Is it really that bad in the bond market?

The great sell-off has sparked fears for our pensions as well as bonds. Simon Read asks if you should keep calm or panic
Up and away: rates will rise but your mortgage won't escape its moorings with a long-term fix

Is a 10 year mortgage deal a fix too far?

A cut-price deal for a decade-long home loan - where's the problem? Only, says Simon Read, that circumstances can change and it won't be easy to get out
In a surprise move the Tories have decided against putting a career politician into the job. Instead they’ve handed the responsibility to campaigner Ros Altmann

New pensions minister has massive job on her hands

The Tories have appointed campaigner Ros Altmann to the post

Promises, promises: David Cameron talks to staff at Asda's head office in Leeds today

General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances

Rival party pledges could shrink your savings or grow your nest egg
Logos for the 'Big Six'; energy companies (top row from left) British Gas, EDF, RWE npower, (bottom row from left) SSE, E.ON and ScottishPower

Winter heating underpayment brings summer pain

One reader’s monthly direct debit charge has been increased by 62 per cent

Almost 15,000 people died last winter through living in cold homes that they couldn’t afford to heat

Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years

Many Londoners who live in social housing estates are not allowed to switch because their landlord has ‘locked’ them in to buying from one supplier

Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?

Providers are unhappy with new EU rules - but ultimately it is customers who will have to foot the bill
There remain more than a million unclaimed Premium Bond prizes worth collectively around £48m

Have you won £1m in the May Premium Bonds draw?

More than £60m was paid out to more than 2 million prizewinners this month

The 0 per cent introductory deals that credit cards offer are one of the most odious tricks

Beware credit card firms’ odious tricks

Why can’t we just have open and honest charges, without all the cross-subsiding?

The pound’s recent strength against the euro could be hit by economic uncertainty under a new government

How planning can make your travel cash go further

With the pound at a high against the euro, it pays to buy now before uncertainty post-election

Put the phone down on the coldcallers who see pension liberation as an opportunity to liberate your pension from you

Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers

Sean O'Grady offers advice on keeping your money safe
Switching to a better bank account is much easier than it used to be

More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?

Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year

The chance of getting what appears to be free money can be hugely attractive, especially to first-time buyers who can be fooled into thinking it’s extra cash to buy the essential new items they need for their dream home.

Beware the boom in cashback mortgage deals

Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

    £70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

    Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

    Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

    £13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific