Whoa, Nellie! What's going on?

I am, as all of you silent readers are aware, writing a book about interactive television. I'm using this blog as a way to "take notes." So the most recent posts may appear incomplete. They are. I've been at this all day today, the day before Thanksgiving, and I am thankful that I can stop for a while. (I always get more done in the library than at home.) Not only is it nice to be around people, the library doesn't have a TV, a fridge, or a bed. Much easier to stay "on task" here.

This posting is a footnote that will be removed once I've caught up on the recent, incomplete posts.

By the way, why do I have this very funny feeling that if I sign up for google ads, I will get many more readers? Is it possible that those who run google ads are ranked higher in the search results? Hmmm.....sure seems possible to me. So those of you who get to this point will know why they're on there. Who knows. Maybe I'll make enough money to buy myself some pop (yes, I said POP as in soda POP....and I'll add sugar to my iced to to MY taste, and not to the taste of the southern cook who insists you can't let sugar dissolve in a glass....puh-lease.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! And if you are reading this, post a comment to wish me one, too. I'm really about ready to add the Google ads and see if I get more action. I really want feedback to assist me. Oh, by the way, it was Bozo the clown who used to say "Whoa, Nellie!" (not to say he was the first).

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!

Engineering Literature and Interactive Television

Here is an example of a paper of great interest to me that appears in a more technical journal that most social scientists would frequently read. I had high hopes that the Universirt of Georgia libraries would have an institutional subscription to this journal, but I don't believe we do:

User interface evaluation of interactive TV: a media studies perspective

Journal Universal Access in the Information Society
Publisher Springer Berlin / Heidelberg
ISSN 1615-5289 (Print) 1615-5297 (Online)
Subject Computer Science
Issue Volume 5, Number 2 / August, 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10209-006-0032-1
Pages 209-218
Online Date Thursday, May 25, 2006

User interface evaluation of interactive TV: a media studies perspective
Konstantinos Chorianopoulos1 and Diomidis Spinellis2

(1) Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London, London, SW7 2BT, UK
(2) Department of Management Science and Technology, Patision 76, Athens University of Economics and Business, 104 34 Athens, Greece

Published online: 25 May 2006

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iTV and Surveillance

I'm not sure I've made it clear that I am a new (emerging) media skeptic. As an individual, I did not get my first VCR until 1988 (because I thought I'd watch too many movies along with waiting for the price to drop). Just because my teaching and research interests surround emerging new media does not mean I am on the sidelines cheering them on.

I was reminded of this when I came across an abstract from New Media & Society, Vol. 8, No. 1, 97-115 (2006). This comes from a full article by Professor Matt Carlson of Penn, and quoting the abstract here is for educational purposes and to push some of you to getting the article:

This article explores the early stages of the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) market, with particular attention paid to brand leader TiVo. The television industry, which relies on schedules to organize the audience commodity, faces threats from DVR technology. Initially, broadcasters and advertisers reacted with fear, but also came to realize the potential of using the technology for data collection and target marketing. These firms employed a mix of investment and litigation to shape the developing industry. Simultaneously, TiVo characterized its relationship to broadcasters and advertisers as advantageous rather than contentious. As a result, the emerging DVR model offers users greater control through time-shifting and increased functionality with content playback, while presenting existing television firms with a platform for audience surveillance.

My personal belief about companies and surveillance is that any who do this with their customer data surreptitiously will create mass defections and anger from customers if and when they find out. Businesses know this. It is also one thing to show aggregate numbers (i.e., "57% of TiVo users rewound the Janet Jackson boob fiasco at least 10 times") does not single out any one user (of course, if 100% did it would, but "if everyone else is doing it" probably would make that a wash).

A larger issue is the Patriot Act (e.g., http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:H.R.3162: and many other sources) and the extent to which media companies comply with demands from the government to see their records ("why does Sissy Daffodil watch the new English version of Al Jazeera so much?"). That conversation is a vital one, but outside of the focus of my work at this time.

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!


Replay TV History


ReplayTV is given credit for being the first PVR on the market in the United States. According to its web site, it was founded in 1997 and was the inventor of the DVR. It also says:

  • Putting consumers in total control with QuickSkip® 30-second advance for DVR and other features.
  • Built-in networking allowing consumers to watch any show from any networked ReplayTV DVR in the home.
  • Allowing consumers to program their DVR via the web from anywhere in the world.
  • Genre-based recording allowing consumers to track their favorite team or find their favorite actor.
  • Network recording which directs requests to available networked ReplayTV DVRs with sufficient capacity.
  • Progressive Scan and Digital Audio Output for state of the art performance.

I'm not sure how long this information will be online, so I want to quote liberally from http://archive.avsforum.com. A Loren Kruse asked the folks who worked at ReplayTV from its inception and soon after for their personal histories of ReplayTV in late August 1999. "JustDoug" responded on 09-29-00:

Anthony Wood was the co-founder and inventor of ReplayTV. I started as the 10th employee, although as a contractor I was like, number 4 or something. By then it was not in a garage (they don’t make garages in Silicon Valley big enough to start companies in anymore). But I remember my first desk was a card table. There were definitely garage-esque moments though. The company had a stealth name of “Pacific Digital Media”.

We knew about a company called TeleWorld, and we had heard they were making a digital VCR. But we didn’t have any idea it was going to be pretty much the same thing as ReplayTV. TeleWorld later changed their name to TiVo, within two weeks of us changing our name from Pacific Digital Media to ReplayTV.

One of the proposals for a new company name was Avio. If we had gone with that, the 2 first creators of PVRs would have been TiVo and Avio. I’m really glad that didn’t happen.

I think Anthony Wood had the idea for ReplayTV while running his first company back around 1993 or 1994. I worked for his first company, as did ReplayBen. His first company made (then) cutting-edge audio recording and editing software and hardware. One of its main features was record-while-playback.

I think Anthony saw the audio-only simultaneous playback and record technology and extended the idea out to video; but in a form more like ReplayTV than a non-linear editor. Then it was matter of time for hard drive prices to fall. According to the first www.replaytv.com website, he had been tracking the prices of hard drives for years before starting ReplayTV.

One of the coolest things about being an early employee is that, embedded in the back of the front panel plastic is all the early employee’s signatures. I know, I know, no one will EVER see it, but just to know it’s there in everyone’s ReplayTVs is pretty cool.

"ReplayMike" added on 09-29-00 (the same day):

Well, I'm a relative newcomer compared to JustDoug (having started about a year and a half ago). Although, I did make it in the door before the first shipment... barely.

I first saw ReplayTV on the web site in November of 1998, after being tipped off by a friend. I immediately placed an advaced order for the 28-hour model, for $1599.

In January of 1999, I flew to Las Vegas for CES, and checked out the ReplayTV and the TiVo. Both products were still a little "rough" -- the ReplayTV crashed during the demo, and the TiVo didn't have a channel guide of any kind.

Since I was (and am) a DBS satellite subscriber, I was wowed by the ReplayTV's integrated multi-source Channel Guide (at the time, the TiVo didn't support multiple inputs, although it was planned for the future). I also just preferred the overall look and feel of the ReplayTV.

I spoke at length with a few of the employees manning the booth, and eventually popped the question: "So, are you guys hiring?"

Well, the answer was "yes", and after returning to the Bay Area, I began a marathon series of interviews at the Replay Networks offices in Palo Alto. The funny thing was, every time I came in for an interview, there were more desks and cubicles crammed into the place! When I came by to pick up my offer letter, the hallway to my future manager's office was gone -- replaced by cubes. On my first day of employment (in the new Moutain View building), I canceled the order for the 28-hour model, since I was able to scam a beta unit to take home.

It's been a heck of a ride. I started almost exactly one week before version 1.0 shipped, and spent my first week on the job doing testing of the release. There's been TONS of hard work between then and now, and no sign of any let up soon. But it's sure been a blast!

I have a policy: I work on products that I actually want to use. That's why I worked at Apple for six years, and it's why I work at ReplayTV.

"ReplaySpence" poeted the following on 09-30-00:

Well seeing as you asked, about a month ago (August 18th) we hit our 3rd birthday. Here's an edited version of the email I sent company-wide. The last section relates to all the internal rebuilding we're doing here as the company grows and we need to squeeze more bodies into the building.

If you read the New York Times article from last weekend, you'll see a mention of August 4th 1997 as the day that Jim Barton and Mike Ramsey started a new company called TeleWorld, now known as Tivo.

Well, today is the third anniversary of the birth of a company called Pacific Digital Media, which we now all know as ReplayTV. On August 18th 1997, our first meeting was held at the house of Eddie, Anthony Wood's co-founder and VP of Engineering. The meeting was attended by Eddie, myself, Karl (our first Hardware Engineer), and a prospective employee who decided later that he didn't want to move to Silicon Valley.

We had no offices, we hadn't decided on the name yet (we later chose Pacific Digital Media because it was non-descriptive and we wanted to stay in stealth mode), we had no domain name, we were all using our personal email accounts and ISPs, we had no equipment, we had no specifications or design. There wasn't even a name for the category of product we were building. All we had was determination and confidence that we could do it.

Three years later, we're finishing up version 3.0 of the software, we have a major OEM company selling ReplayTVs in stores nationwide, and we're advertising on TV.

Oh, and just in case you're thinking that you're squeezed inside your newest offices, look at how it started....

From: Eddie
To: Anthony Wood; Spencer Shanson; Karl; Greg; Don Woodward
Sent: Tue 8/26/97 12.05am

Things are really hopping. Our lawyers are getting our incorporation
done and we've pretty much decided to use "Pacific Digital Media" as
our interim company name. I registered for "pacificdig.com" for our
domain name. Speak now if you have any objections, although we know
we're going to change the name.

Thanks to Spencer, we think we've found some great space we can hang
out in for a few months. The offices are at Clyde Street in
Mountain View, on the border with Sunnyvale, off of 237/101. We're
looking at renting seven offices that can each hold two desks, and
a fairly wide hallway. The building is set up as an incubator for
startups, so there's lots of helpful services and the rent is not
too bad. I'd be happy to give details. I'm going over there at 10:30
on Tuesday to fork over rent for the next six months, so if you want
to check out the space first, you can meet me there.


The company got itself in trouble by making itself very consumer friendly but not advertiser friendly.

ReplayTV was in the DVR market about the same time as TiVo, but they had some extras that got them into trouble with program producers. TiVo is trying to work with advertisers, while early iterations of ReplayTV allowed for the automatic elimination of commercials from the recording process. I will return to this posting later.


In June 2002, a federal judge overturned an order that would have required ReplayTV to gather data about customers' TV-viewing habits as program producers alleged piracy because users can skip commercials that pay for the programs. The judge was ruling on procedural grounds and did not extend her decision to Sonicblue's MyReplayTV.com web site, which collects anonymous information about the programs stored on customers' recorders. See Jon Healey (June 4, 2002), "Technology: A Federal Judge Reverses a Ruling by a Magistrate Judge That Said Sonicblue Must Track Users of Its ReplayTV 4000 Digital Recorders, Los Angeles Imes, n.p. Accessed http://www.sirs.com, Nov. 22, 2006.

The emergence of ReplayTV and TiVo brought out won of the most odd quotes ever to be made by a media executive. The observation of CEO of TBS was that anyone who recored a commercially sponsored program but did not watch the commercials (either fast forwarded through them or, as in the case of ReplayTV, miseed them as the device did not record the commercials) as a thief. If for no other reason, the comment seemed ridiculous given that people who used their VCRs to record and then fast forward through commercials (and yes, there was a VCR that also stopped recording when a commercial pod came on) had been "stealing" for years. Perhaps what Keller really doing was ringing the alarm bell because now even technophobes could avoid the commercials...essily. History showed in the Betamax case, however, that Hollywood has made out like a bandit thanks to the VCR and home video (since enhanced via DVDs). I remember reading this quote when it first came out and wondering if Keller had been told by TBS to raise the red flag or if Keller had jumped off the deep end himself.

Regardless, ReplayTV was involved in a lawsuit at the time because its DVR made skipping commercials even easier than TiVo. It tunes in to the signals sent over the airwaves telling the local station, satellite service or cable facility "here come the commercials."

By mid-2003, the New York Times reported:

ReplayTV's new 5500 model, which will go on sale next month, will no longer be able to skip entire commercials automatically without recording them or to send recorded programming over the Internet to other ReplayTV users outside a home network. The recorders will, however, still be able to store large libraries of programming indefinitely and allow users to skip manually through recorded commercials in 30-second increments.

ReplayTV's New Owners Drop Features That Riled Hollywood
Eric a. Taub. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Jul 21, 2003. pg. C.3

IEEE Spectrum published an excellent article on ReplayTV and how it got itself entangled in the web of Hollywood and copyright protection (while TiVo was about to steam ahead without similar impediments):

See http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/print/3673

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This is as of late 2006 something of a history lesson. TiVo has managed to stay independent (at one point it was DirecTV's only DVR). TiVo records shows as typed in by the user whether by program title or keyword (such as Buckeye football). The viewer is given a choice of video quality (the higher the quality, the more space it takes on the hard drive). If the show is a series, the user can record up to 5 episodes and even keep them if she wants (right on the TiVo or "offload" them onto a VCR).

It's getting close to calling it a day, but there are a number of screen shots as well as pictures of the TiVo remote at http://www.humaxusa.com/image_gallery.html as of 21 November 2006.

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What's the Big Deal About a Set-top Box?

Nice of you to ask! One of the main reasons why consumers in the U.S. both have been slow to see interactive services before now but certainly will in the near future is the set-top box. Cable and satellite viewers probably don't spend much time thinking about the set-top box, although savvy home video enthusiasts know that the industry was able to create "cable-ready" TV sets that worked great with analog cable service. Once again, cable and satellite viewers are forced to deal with the set-top box (although there is little evidence to suggest other than the occasional lightning strike), viewers at home put much thought into what the devices actually did, that lack of knowledge is allowing cable and satellite providers to upgrade their customers into new, interactive services courtesy of the set-top box.

TiVo and ReplayTV jumped the gun a bit on the next generation set-top box. TiVo is essentially a computer with a large hard drive and it happens to use the linux operating system. TiVo's take-up was slow because it was perceived to be a very expensive alternative to a very inexpensive VCR. TiVo is the poster child for an experiential consumer product meaning, quite simply, talking about it is far less persuasive than actually having one in the home. Once a consumer took the product home and began to use it, the love affair took off quickly. TiVo received the highest consumer satisfaction rankings in the history of such measurements. But it has taken a while to reach critical mass, and that time lag has allowed both satelllite competitors (DirecTV and Dish Network) to develop and offer their own DVR (or PVR; I'm not sure who has the final say on "digital video recorder" versus "personal video recorder," although I am partial to the latter because I think it communicates more to the potential adopter).

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!


Levels of Video Interactivity from the A/V Literature

Interactive video made a splash in education but I suspect most experts would agree that the splash didn't displace as much water as was expected when interactive videodiscs were introduced around (and before) 1980. In fact, this book was copyrighted in 1982 suggesting it actually was written before 1982 (i.e., the concept of interactive video has been around for 25 more than years):

Floyd, S., & Floyd, B. (1982). THE HANDBOOK OF INTERACTIVE VIDEO. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications.

The bibliographic entry above is taked from the ERIC document below, which is an example of the definitions of interactivity assigned to educational application of videodiscs 25 years ago.

From http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/
0000000b/80/2a/09/ea.pdf, ERIC Identifier: ED270103
Publication Date: 1985-12-00
Author: McLean, Lois
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Videodiscs in Education. ERIC Digest.

The following is a direct quote from the ERIC document:

System hardware configurations usually include a videodisc player, video monitor, microcomputer, computer screen, and an interface to connect the computer and the video player. Videodisc systems are categorized according to their level of interactivity.

--A Level 1 videodisc system is a stand-alone videodisc player, which may allow dual audio and random access of still frames, freeze-frames, auto-stop, and chapter search, but has no memory or processing power. A keypad is used to input data, and output may include audio from one of the two available channels together with standard motion and still frame graphics. The user can select what is to be viewed next and which audio channel will be heard.

--Level 2 systems use a stand-alone, educational/industrial player allowing disc control through an internal programmable microprocessor. The keypad at this level can be used for numeric entries and some special options. While the format of the output is essentially the same as it is for the Level 1 player, the microprocessor has enough memory to receive multiple programs and provide a more sophisticated level of interaction for the user.

--Level 3 disc systems add the power of an external computer to a videodisc player by connecting them with an interface device, usually a computer card. In addition to the videodisc for audio and motion graphics and still frame graphics, media for such systems include floppy diskettes [remember this is 1985] for the computer programs. An audiocassette can also be used to provide random access sound over still frames and over computer graphics. Authoring packages are available to assist Level 3 program designers.

--More sophisticated systems are being developed which have capabilities far beyond those of the original Level 3 system. For example, a graphic overlay capability has been developed that allows the display to contain graphics generated by a computer, visuals from a videodisc, or a combination of the two, without the user being aware that the material comes from different sources; availability of more powerful (and less expensive) microcomputers has made possible an expansion of system control; and digital recording of audio can be used to greatly extend the the amount of stereo sound that can be provided over still graphics on a single videodisc.

The relevance for today is that interactive videodiscs appear to have only been applied in education in the fringes, but not a hallmark of education. Considering the impact on students a re-enactment of the Civil War (available from many possible sources from historically accurate to entertainment such as the linear film Glory), there is room for questioning why video and especially interactive video has not caught on. Is it a conceptual problem or a technological one? If the latter, it would seem that the future of education applications of interactive video should be bright at both the home and school.

Worth mentioning is the explosion of Flash video on the web. It seems virtually all mainstream "old media" stalwarts have video on their web sites, and this includes print media, especially newspapers. I don't often check magazines online, so maybe I better do that. I repeat, as I have said many times, that we live in a video society, and with the cost of video production so low and Flash video so good (and all forms of compressed video will only get better), video will continue to use more and more of web browsers' (people's) time spent on the web.

Source: http://www.sdm.buffalo.edu/oir/MacDent
/Issue_2/16_Interactive.html accessed 21 November 2006

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Optimistic View (Whoops!) of Interactive Videodiscs

ERIC Identifier: ED270103
Publication Date: 1985-12-00
Author: McLean, Lois
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Videodiscs in Education. ERIC Digest.
TEXT: Videodiscs could have a revolutionary impact on the use of audiovisual media in education. What makes the videodisc so attractive? Videodisc systems can combine the best features of instructional television and computer assisted instruction. They can provide individualized, self-paced instruction with feedback and remediation, while incorporating all traditional audiovisual media into one easy-to-use, durable format.

Source: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ accessed 20 November 2006

In my writings on forecasting the adoption of new media, I've observed that it's easier to envision the end-state scenario than it is to anticipate the bumps in the road. This results in an optimistic "forecast" for a new medium as seen in the text above. (There are examples of technologies that exceed expectations including broadband access, for example; its growth has exceeded forecasters's predictions for its growth because they did tend to focus on why broadband would not diffuse quickly, and the hurdles were overstated.

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Contributions to Interactivity from Instructional Media

Instructional media has gone its merry way, finding applications for new communication technologies as soon as they are made available. I remember in high school we had the "videotape club" and the yearbook showed a picture of the advisor "taped in" with 3/4" videotape. (This is the same guy who told me not to take typing because I was a college prep student, advice that I still curse as I struggle to type with 4 fingers, up from two.)

The concept of interactivity in instructional media has been around for years, and the rest of the world can learn from intructional media. For example, from http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/pubs/glossary/I.htm (accessed 20 November 2006):
IMI Interactivity Levels

Standards to which IMI products are developed conforming to interactivity level(s) which are appropriate for the instructional design, strategy, media, content, and course specifications.
see also: Interactive Multimedia Instruction ; IMI Level 1 Interactivity ; IMI Level 2 Interactivity ; IMI Level 3 Interactivity

IMI Level 1 Interactivity

This is the lowest level of courseware development. It is normally a knowledge familiarity lesson, provided in a linear format (one idea after another). Use Level 1 to introduce an idea or concept, or to familiarize. Provide minimal interactivity by using selectable screen icons that are inserted into the linear, or almost linear, flow of the courseware. Allow the student little or no control of the sequence of instructional media presented, including: simple developed graphics, clip art, customer provided video and audio segments (clips). Make use of typical input/output peripherals throughout the lesson.
see also: Interactive Multimedia Instruction

IMI Level 2 Interactivity

This involves the recall of more information than a level 1 and allows the student more control over the lesson’s scenario through screen icons and other peripherals, such as light pens or touch screens. Typically level 2 is used for non-complex operations and maintenance lessons. Simple emulations or simulations are presented to the user. As an example, the user is requested to rotate switches, turn dials, make adjustments, or identify and replace a faulted component as part of a procedure. This also may include simple to standard developed graphics, and/or clip art, and video and audio clips.
see also: Interactive Multimedia Instruction

IMI Level 3 Interactivity

This involves the recall of more complex information (compared to levels 1 and 2) and allows the user an increased level of control over the lesson scenario through peripherals such as light pen, touch screen, track ball, or mouse. Video, graphics, or a combination of both is presented simulating the operation of a system, subsystem, or equipment to the user. The lesson scenario training material typically is complex and involves more frequent use of peripherals to affect a transfer of learning. Operation and maintenance procedures are normally practiced with level 3 scenarios and students may be required to alternate between multiple screens to keep pace with the lesson material. Multiple software branches (two to three levels) and rapid response are provided to support remediation. Emulations and simulations are an integral part of this presentation. This may also include complex developed graphics, and/or clip art, and video and audio clips.

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos? Don't smite me, let me know!

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos? Don't smite me, let me know!