Back in the day, our homes had music rooms, game rooms, TV rooms, and personal libraries that we went to when we wanted to indulge in the forms of entertainment that these rooms were made for. Yes, these were the areas that we used to call entertainment centers.
In the first decade of the 21st century, technology has managed to pick the entertainment from their respective zones, bunched them up and packaged them in one place that would enable them to transcend location. That place is your mobile device.
But that’s old news. Your mobile device has gone way beyond being a portable, all-encompassing entertainment center. Instead, it has become the entertainer—the amuser, the accommodator, the diverter, the performer. We’re here to show you why.
“Video killed the radio star,” The Buggles sang, fascinated by technology’s effect on society, the ingenious song that bears these lyrics. The song was an instant classic from its launch back in 1981—a nostalgic yet techno-savvy rumination on the period of technological change in the 1960s, centering on an artist whose career was halted due to the rising popularity of television. “In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far,” Trevor Horn delivered into the microphone, merely accepting the new age that was inevitable. “Pictures came and broke your heart. Put all the blame on VCR.”
Back when movies were first introduced to the world, the only way people could see them was to go to the cinema. Going to the cinema has always been a popular leisure activity that can be compared to going to a concert, theater or museum; travelling to different places; and playing sports. It also relates to going out with a group of friends that gives a sense of relaxation mixed with fun and excitement. Other than selling individual films, the cinema, too, was seen as a purveyor of habit or a socialized experience—until came the VCR.
VCRs, or videocassette recorders, which played Betamax or VHS, and much later, DVDs, dramatically changed how we watch films. These mediums allowed us to see our favorite movies in high quality in the comfort of our own homes, which also meant lesser trips to movie theaters. Forget about driving through city traffic, standing in a long line to pay for a movie ticket, and sitting close to an annoying group of people. Now, we have the capability to view movies anytime we want to see them, minus the hassle.
A good deal of movie download sites have sprung up all over the Internet. To watch movies, all you need is a computer or a device with internet connectivity, and you’re ready to get started. These sites normally give you an option to choose a monthly subscription, a one-time fee, or a pay-per-view download. Needless to say, there’s also an increasing number of ways becoming available to view movies. You can download movies and watch them on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also copy them to a USB flash drive or SD card, and connect them to your video player or Smart TV. These new viewing methods make it possible to watch movies virtually anywhere.
For instance, are you stuck on the road everyday, travelling to and from work? Does a 20-minute train ride bore you, or perhaps, make you feel uncomfortable, being face-to-face with strangers? You can kill the time and avoid awkward eye contact by watching one of your favorite movies. Simply download the movie title of your choice to your computer and transfer it to your portable device, then you’re ready to turn an otherwise humdrum and boring ride into something more entertaining and pleasurable as you catch up on movies that you thought you’d never have the time to see.
Maybe you travel frequently and spend a lot of time in airports and hotels? You can pass the time away between flights—or even on the flight if no movies are shown—with a great film right on your laptop. You can also get comfortable in your hotel room after a long day by watching movies you like starring your favorite actors.
Because the Internet and technology is getting all the more advanced everyday, we have many more options than ever to watch movies. If you have internet connection to download movies and the time to watch them, whether it’s on your favorite portable player, computer, or TV, you have all you need to catch up on all the movies you want to see. Technology has made it easier now for you to watch your favorite movies practically anywhere.
A chandelier-lit room radiates as a banquet of food is served at the far side of the soon laughter-filled hall. Shoes clicking on wooden floors, skirts swaying as hips move from left to right, revelry made alive with melodies reverberating from a vinyl record spinning on the gramophone. Imagining this sepia toned setting brings you back to the mid-century house-party scene of the 1900s, which we frequently see in vintage movies.
Through the years, technology has evolved and taken each listening generation closer to music. What started as a gadget capable of mono-only playback has since evolved into a do-it-all device that also happens to be an excellent music player.
Vinyl records or Long Playing records (LPs) were the iPods of the early 1950’s. It was a big milestone for recording and music playback, but long-gone are the days where LPs were the centers of the party, though many remain as precious collectibles for audiophiles. For many, they are little more than ancient artifacts unearthed during one of your adventures to the bodega of your ancestral home.
As vinyl was making its way out, audio cassettes came in and became the standard. Tapes were much sturdier and far easier to carry around, causing a lot of consumers to abandon LPs. This era of music is home to that nostalgic scene from the film Say Anything where John Cusack displays affection to his ladylove by holding a boombox over his head. That kind of romanticism was not to last, however, as Sony’s “Walkman” devices entered the scene. Living out its name perfectly, the portable cassette tape player could be found attached to the pants of people everywhere they went.
The problem with vinyl was that it was quite fragile, while tapes were prone to jam inside players from frequent playback. Both were also subject to physical distortion from increased temperatures. The world was ready for something new.
Although they weren’t met solely with praise, what ushered the digital era of music were Compact Discs (CDs)—magical devices that kept degradation of sound over time at bay. One of the amazing features of the digital format was the ability to skip tracks from any album easily. It was the best option of bringing music to consumers, at least for a while.
Today, as the Miley Cyrus song goes “We’ve got the party with us,” taking the party anywhere is easy. By hooking your iPod or your smartphone to a set of loudspeakers you can get the party started anywhere you may find yourself.
All phones sold today can function as great playback devices. They hold the ability to put your whole music library on one device. What’s good about iPods and smartphones is you can take them anywhere; you can even jam to your favorite tunes while washing the dishes. The ability of even the most basic of smartphones to play music means you don’t even need to carry a separate device for music. The smartphone, which you carry with you anyway, can take care of it just fine.
While some purists and audiophiles might still argue that dedicated music devices provide a better music experience, we cannot deny the functionality and portability offered by devices today. For the average person, convenience will beat expensive (albeit superior) quality every time.
“Music is the universal language of mankind,” poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said. It is a beautiful creation that transcends through barriers. I don’t think he meant the same barriers we do now, but tech has made it so that the barriers aren’t really there anymore.
Gaming. If you are within 18-49 (or, more precisely about 35) years old, you know what we are talking about. You’re quite likely a gamer yourself, in some shape or fashion. Gaming is big business, and by extension, so are other things related to it. There was a time when games were relegated to the arcades, and their big cabinets. Side-scrolling shoot-‘em-ups and jumping games dominated the scene, and by the time arcades were hitting it big, there was so much variety that you could spend the whole day at one and still not have enough time to try them all.
Moore’s Law, the one that indirectly states that computing power increases exponentially, had always been in play in the gaming industry, and before long, huge cabinets had been miniaturized sufficiently to fit into a small box that could sit comfortably in your living room, under the TV. This made the gaming industry boom, with companies jumping on the videogaming bubble of the 90s. Numerous systems came out, each trying to outdo the other, and some of the most iconic games sprang forth. Many of these games are still fascinating and incredibly engaging. I, for one, still play Squaresoft’s Chrono Trigger on a regular basis. Gaming moved from the arcade to the den where the TV constantly churned out 8-,16-,32- and eventually 64-bit entertainment for hours on end. We all know how that story ended, though. The bubble burst, and while gaming is still a big thing, it’s not the same as it was in the old days. Things have changed, and games have slowly been coaxed out of the home and into the outside world.
Portable gaming consoles made this transition possible, as technology shrank and gave us better and smaller toys on which to play. It started harmlessly enough. We had game and watches, then the Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Game Gear, and honestly, after that, it was all a blur. Different versions of each, with color, smarter brains, better graphics appeared. I had my time with each, and when I came to, I was the proud owner of a Sony PSP. While there were also really great games for handhelds in the past, portable games weren’t really as engaging as when they arrived on the PSP and similar consoles. The quality of the graphics, the ability to handle action and effects made the PSP more appealing to the same kind of gamers that enjoyed quick, action-y titles on bigger, TV-bound machines.
Despite the proliferation of highly-capable gaming devices that are primarily game machines, gaming hadn’t yet reached the widespread popularity it enjoys today. Sure it was popular, and yes, it had been taken out of the arcade, dens and family rooms in which it grew, but it wasn’t everywhere. It had a little more to go before making almost everyone a gamer.
At this point in the story, we have to take a break and look back to the game Snake. If you had a Nokia phone in the late 90s or early 2000s (which you very likely did), you must be familiar with it. While seemingly innocuous, it has a lot to do with the topic at hand. As with everything else, we are likely to use the things that we can easily carry around with us, otherwise, we usually end up finding alternatives. I have carried a mobile phone more or less every day since my first one in third year high school. I expect most of you are the same.
Back when affordable mobile phones had trickled down to consumers, they only had enough smarts for rudimentary graphics. Sure, they were fun, but you could only in the barest of terms call the activity “gaming.” Moore’s Law ensured this would not be the case for long, and eventually, gaming caught up. We first saw Java games that had the familiar side-scrolling action/adventure/jumping puzzle type gameplay, which eventually took off quickly and evolved into the mobile device gaming scene we have today, populated by dedicated apps, console-level graphics and gameplay almost at par with the kind we are seeing in dedicated gaming consoles and PCs.
This brings us back to our original point. Where portable consoles successfully took gaming out of the deep dark dungeons of dedicated gaming rooms such as arcades and dens, gaming on mobile devices not solely intended for gaming made everyone a gamer. Casual gaming is within reach of anyone with a smartphone, and even though the majority of casual games don’t really have the same scope as The Last of Us, or the breadth of Metal Gear, it has turned practically everyone into a gamer.
When you think about it, the purpose of game is to entertain. Whether it’s for a quick ten minutes while you wait for your root canal or a weekend-long LAN party with friends, games are there for entertainment. Your mobile phone or tablet, being always in your pocket or on your person, lets you carry the games with you everywhere, and the casual nature of social games such as Draw Something or Space Team means everyone, from hardcore gamer, to your mom can get in on the action.
There is also the matter of the devices. They may be very capable in their own right, but they are primarily phones, so they can’t exactly go frame for frame against dedicated gaming devices. Still, we have more variety than ever before, even without counting games that are clones of other games. Not only can everyone have entire libraries of games in our pockets, now, people actually want to.
Belle is on a roll nowadays. She’s been reading at least three books a day and she still has that habit of reading one title at least twice. Rumor has it she keeps a ballroom-sized library in Beast’s castle, filled with colossal bookcases with shelves that look that they’re about to give in to the weight of the millions of books lined up on top of them. Contrary to hearsay, Belle no longer owns a bookshelf, nor does she keep any books (she gave them all to good ol’ Geppetto, whose son stifled a squeal of excitement as he laid eyes upon Belle’s massive collection). These days, Belle keeps her precious selections neatly organized in her trusty iPad, which she uses to indulge in her nerd-ish hobby.
When we said mobile devices have become entertainers of the 21st century, we meant all forms of entertainment, and that means these handy gadgets are at the service, too, of people like Belle—those who spend their hours of leisure reading books. From bound parchment to dedicated digital readers, tablets, smartphones and everything in between, indeed, books have managed to migrate from the wooden shelves and into our pockets.
No doubt, a tablet with twenty e-Books installed is easier to carry around than twenty hardbounds, each one a chunky 400 pages thick. It’s also more economical, what with the cost of digital selections getting lower by the minute as the possibilities in the tech sphere continue to expand.
Cost and portability aside, the biggest perk of having a digital reader app is being able to read and re-read a book in your treasured collection no matter where you are. You’re on the bus and you suddenly want to revisit Harry’s triumph over Voldemort? Pull out your tab and swipe open chapter thirty-six. Feeling adventurous? Pick up your Kindle and join the quirky Alonso Quijano and his trusty sidekick Sancho in an epic conquest. In the mood for verses and metaphors? A complete anthology of Sylvia Plath is right inside your pocket. Your entire library is with you wherever you go, along with the characters, adventures, and ideas that come with each selection—sans the heavy weight. Now what bibliophile wouldn’t want that?
And what comic book lover wouldn’t want that, either? Digital reader apps are just as useful to comic book geeks as they are to bookworms. Tablets and dedicated digital readers come with just enough storage space for you to stock up on your comic book collection, which means you can follow Morpheus’ otherworldly adventures while you’re waiting to board your plane or when you don’t want to socialize at a party. With an e-Reader, you can even zoom in on a single panel to get closer to the action.
The same goes for digital newsletter and magazine and enthusiasts, who are able to subscribe to their favorite publications, instantly get ahold of the latest issues of each title, and manage them through digital newsstand services.
A lot of bibliophiles are still ever-loyal to the printed page, and the reasons range from the reduced tendency to multitask and therefore lose full concentration on what one is reading, to the simple joy of smelling a musty paperback. Some may also argue that constant on-screen reading causes eye fatigue, but digital readers, mobile devices, and apps all have tweakable text size, brightness, contrast, and color settings to make digital reading less straining. The trade-off for being able to store thousands of books in a single device that you can pull out whenever you’re in the mood to be entertained by literature isn’t really that critical.
I, too, am a bookworm to what you might call a fervid extent, and I do liken my paperback acquisition habits to a squirrel’s pre-winter hoarding instinct, but even I can’t refute the convenience that digital reading technology brings.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara, Racine Anne Castro, Mia Carisse Barrientos, Janelle M. Bustilla,