Thanks to new technologies, producers of entertainment films have found additional home audiences to watch their pictures, first over cable television and more recently on video cassette recorders attached to television sets.
Until fairly recently, motion pictures were made for showing only in movie houses’ and drive-ins. Some of the more popular films are now played on network television, and old movies taken from the studio vaults have a .seemingly endless replay life on independent television stations: The producers also shipped films to the lucrative foreign theater market.
Then came cable television. Its channels show movies, uncut and uncensored, many hours a day. Cable programmers are distributed to home TV sets by wire, both above and under ground, from the headquarters of a local cable system; most of them are transmitted by satellite to the local systems from networks such as Home Box Office and Showtime. The home set owner pays a monthly fee to the local system to receive the material.
The enormous popularity of videocassette recorders has multiplied home viewing of movies, brought additional millions of dollars. to filmmakers, and reduced attendance at theaters. Home viewers either rent videocassette movies from video shops or purchase them for their permanent libraries.
Foreign markets for videocassettes are thriving. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the homes of wealthy oil businessmen may contain seven or eight cassette recorders, one in every bedroom. Even in the midst of intense fighting in Lebanon. the sale and rental of videcassettes was a thriving business. In the evening, people there go to video clubs, where they drink coffee, select videocassettes of recent movies, and sit in darkened viewing rooms. One dealer carries a stock of 16,000 videocassettes
Videodiscs, which resemble phonograph records, failed to win public acceptance as competitors of videocassettes. Discs are valuable for storing information, however, and specialized uses for them have been developed. A new type of disc, the laser video disc, popularly known as laser vision or LV, appeared on the market recently. Critics praised the quality of its picture and sound.
This summary gives only a brief outline of how the electronic explosion has increased the global flow of communication. Ideas, information, and entertainment flashing around the world even penetrate regions where dictatorships try to control the lives of their citizens by restricting what they can see, hear, and read
Electronic News Reporting
Gathering the news has been speeder up through electronic methods.
Vehicles carrying transmission equipment that beams signals to a satellite can speed to the scenes of timely news events such as disasters. From them reporters can send their televised dispatches directly to a network or individual station for immediate broadcast.
News gathering from space by cameras on commercial satellites has begun in a limited way. The first news pictures of the 1986 nuclear plant disaster at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union reached the world from the American Landsat and French SPOT satellites. Eventually, analysts predict, a group of American news organizations will launch their own satellite. Existence of news gathering cameras in space able to report military movements could lead to a confrontation between U.S. national security interests and the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution
Newspaper reporters also have fast electronic tools for usein the field. They can type their stories on lap-size personal computers in their automobiles, connect the computers to cellular telephones in the cars, and transmit the stories directly into their newspapers’ central computers. A cellular telephone system consists of numerous interlocking low-power transmitters, each covering a small geographic zone. As a vehicle equipped with a cellular telephone moves from one zone into another, its phone transmission is switched automatically by computer into the next zone’s transmitter.
On the Horizon
Other dramatic forms of transmission are emerging to supplement or perhaps succeed some of those we have mentioned. Perhaps the most intriguing. is fiber optics. Instead of transmitting signals by wire, this system uses highly transparent strands of glass thinner than a human hair. Replacing electronic signals, pulses of light flash along these::glass strands at the rate of 90 million per second. A single fiber optics cable can cant. 240,000 telephone calls at once. Use of fiber optics is expanding swiftly because of its efficiency and economy
A Hungarian physicist, Dennis Gabor, developed the theory of holography — the projection of a three-dimensional image of an object-in the late 1940s. The theory could not be demonstrated, however, until a reliable source of coherent light, the laser, was later developed. During the last decade or so, holographic pictures have been created and used commercially on a limited basis. Observers can view all sides of the object seemingly projected toward them. The use 6f holography in motion pictures has been demonstrated to be possible, but numerous technical problems must be overcome before holographic films become a commercial reality
Areas of danger
The electronic developments we have described inevitably are having an intense impact on society. The behaviour, thinking and expectations of humans everywhere have been altered and will be molded even more extensively as the full influence of the information flood is felt. This proliferation of information and the swiftness of its distribution improve the human condition. Along with the positive values it provides, however, the communication explosion has created areas of danger that must be recognized and eontrolled
Among them are these five major concerns:
1. Perversion of the troth by electronic trickery.
2. Invasion of privacy.
3. Violation of security, both governmental and
4. Impact on the democratic process.
5. Isolation of people
Five Major Concerns
MANIPULATION. Clever users of electronic devices can alter the meaning of recorded visual and audio material, making it appear to be what it really isn’t
PRIVACY. As two-way electronic communication increases, persons who use it for a variety of transactions will be placing more and more information about their private affairs into the memory banks and storage files of computers. In these records could be such information as the names of products a person had purchased by videotex, the content of electronic mail, lists of X-rated films the person might have ordered, and details of banking transactions.
Marketing firms, criminals, even just plain neighborhood snoops might like to obtain this information. Some system operators might be tempted to sell it for supplemental revenue, just as mailing lists are sold.
SECURITY. Protection of secret government information, private financial transactions, and institutional records in computer systems has caused much concern. Disclosure of instances in which computer “hackers” have ingeniously penetrated storage and transmission systems has increased public awareness of the danger
DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. It is axiomatic that democracy functions best when voters are widely informed on all problems and issues.
Given power to select the information they desire with the new technologies, will citizens expose themselves to a sufficiently broad range of knowledge? By choosing to see and hear only what interests them most-for example, sports, stock market quotations, and entertainment-will they be able to vote intelligently? Might this power of selectivity actually serve under some circumstances as a limiting factor in the education of the citizenry rather than a broadening one?
Because of the power of television and its ability to project personality, the danger grows that the nation may make decisions about leaders and policies based on image rather than substance
ISOLATION. While the communications revolution has the power to draw the global community closer together and frequently does so, it simultaneously isolates individuals and small groups .
Instead of mingling with crowds at movie theaters, couples and families stay home to watch videotapes on their TV . screens. Both adults and children sit at computers for hours, aware only of what appears on the small screen. Often they seem visually drugged, almost bewitched. A growing number of workers do their jobs at home, linked to their offices by personal computer. This isolation from. human contact and camaraderie, this loss of the group dynamic, has forced some intense users of computers to seek psychological help. The negative influences of such aloneness on society as a whole, if there are any, are not yet discernible