The thought of gathering the family around the TV may summon quaint memories of Ed Sullivan and Howdy Doody, but it’s still a reality, even in the era of Tony Soprano and The Powerpuff Girls. Those huge TVs we bought in the ’90s—and the colossal speakers we chose to go with them—shoved aside our favorite furniture and jailed us in a prison of big black particleboard boxes. Fortunately, recent advances in technology have dramatically expanded our entertainment options.
For years, your only real TV option was the big tube set that dominated the living room. Sure, the screen was bigger and better than the one your granddad used, but it was 1950s technology nonetheless. Now you have numerous TV technologies to choose from, all of which can offer high-definition video in form factors better suited to modern homes. Many of them are just a few inches thick, enabling you to squeeze them into a niche, hang them on a wall, even hide them behind a painting. Aesthetically minded spouses, tired of looking like the bad guy when the family walks the aisles at the electronics store, now throw open the household doors to flat-screen TVs and big-screen video projectors—at prices no one imagined that the general public would pay.
Flat-screen TVs, in particular, are a driving force in the industry, because they fit so easily into a room and because they’re just so cool. Manufacturers can’t make enough of them, dealers can’t keep them in stock, and consumers can’t get them fast enough. Everyone’s eager to dump the big, ugly boob tube. People are even adding screens to the headrests of their SUVs to keep little Jimmy and Suzie quiet during the drive to grandma’s house. And along with the flat-screen has come the need for less-obtrusive speakers, smaller audio and video components, and stylish stands to hold it all.