Sony Corp. invented the Walkman because the company’s Chairman wanted to listen to music during overseas flights to the U.S. An obscure entrepreneur came up with an unlikely idea for “wired radio” that would end up reframing the entire U.S. television system. Microsoft’s hugely popular Xbox gaming platform took its inspiration from the H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds” radio series. And more. Over seven years, I this series of essays about moments of impact in the modern media and telecommunications ecosystems. From Sony’s iconic portable stereo to an FCC rule that laid the groundwork for the era of the mega-media corporation, these reflections illuminate how we got to where we are. Enjoy the stroll.
A hip-hop revolutionary helped to clear the path for media manipulation.
Sony’s iconic cassette player let content roam free.
PHONING IT IN
The old days were better days for Ma Bell & Co.
HERE WE ARE NOW, INTERTAIN US
An ahead-of-its time video-on-demand service helped usher in the modern TV era.
METER ME, BABY
In the new world of high-speed Internet, you get what you pay for. And sometimes much more.
VCR TO THE MAX
To TV people, it’s simply “The Betamax decision.” Here’s why a U.S. Supreme Court ruling turned the media world upside-down.
The regulatory albatross called “retransmission consent” has upended the U.S. television system. Which is odd, because its heritage is in radio.
WALLOWING IN GUI
A staple of the modern video experience is the on-screen menu, a window to vast reservoirs of titles. It wasn’t always that way.
In the quest to deliver movies to the home, cable has never been alone. Or even first.
DISHING IT UP
1994 was the year everything changed for an industry that had gotten used to owning it all.
LOOK MA, NO WIRES
Riding over invisible radio waves, an emerging medium had its sights set on more than just phone calls.
WHATCHA LOOKING FOR?
What early-era Google taught the cable industry, and the world, about listening to the user base.
What the Pony Express taught data engineers about getting from point A to point B. Fast.
Once it played to the entire family. Now, television has gotten personal. And that’s no accident.
ALIENS ON LINE 1
Way before Stadia, XBox Live and other streaming video game platforms hit the scene, there was PlayCable.
In Los Angeles, pay television once flew through the skies.
Why an FCC ruling designed to mediate two television delivery technologies turned everything upside down.
DICK TRACY CALLING
How mobile video got its vibe.
WIRED FOR SOUND
The modern-day albatross of “retransmission consent” has its roots in radio.
The media future belongs to they who invent a better battery.
THE SECRETARY WILL SEE YOU NOW
A Bush administration bigshot with a television-meets-technology heritage.
MADNESS AT BAUD SPEED
Before there was Facebook or Google, there was Prodigy and Madmaze.
LET THERE BE RGB
Television’s march toward colorization taught the world a lesson in progress.
JUST ANOTHER BAND OUT OF BOSTON
The birthplace of democracy gave rise to something else that was revolutionary: a faster Internet.
FACETIME IS SO 1964
The long path to video phone calls traces to an entrancing booth at the NYC World’s Fair.
Lightning really did get captured in a bottle. And it changed everything.
How CB radio foretold the future of a new media ethos.
DOWN GOES FRAZIER
Boxing’s legendary 1975 moment ushered in a new era of television.
In which we draw a straight line between the Sears Roebuck catalog and cable TV’s QVC.
From Beta VCRs to warring digital discs, the format wars prove costly.
CITY OF SCHEMES
How a patchwork quilt of cable TV franchises played a starring role in a Hollywood drama.
LEAVE A MESSAGE, PLEASE
Solving the problem of the unanswered phone call.
Why the U.S. television system has stood the test of time.
VC man John Doerr and the dawning of the high-speed Internet revolution.
THE PERILS OF YARDWORK
Hell had no fury like a U.S. Senator whose mom’s yard was ripped up by the Cable Guy.
A cantankerous attorney made South Central L.A. ground zero for the cable industry worst nightmare.