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OK, a show of hands – who knows what quadraphonic sound is? I'm betting most of the hands raised belong to older members of the audience. For you younger folks, quadraphonic was the next great thing after stereo. Instead of a pair of speakers with stereo, you had four speakers, each capable of delivering a discreet channel. Of course, to listen to a quadraphonic record (on vinyl – who remembers that?) you needed a special turntable, with a special stylus/cartridge, and a special receiver (and four speakers). Also, there were quadraphonic radio stations,  so of course you needed a radio capable of decoding the extra channels for your house and car. All this was in order to bring on the next great wave of entertainment and, coincidentally, sell a lot of electronics for the consumer electronics industry. So, a big-time failure, right? Wrong.

Oh, sure, many of you may never have even heard of quadraphonic, and certainly few, if any of you, have any quadraphonic gear – or do you? Another show of hands – who owns a surround sound home theatre system? Yeah, pretty much the same thing. (OK, I know I'm simplifying this quite a bit.) So was quadraphonic a failure or just a tech not quite baked enough? Maybe it came out of the oven a few years early and needed to cook a little longer.

So why am I bringing this up? This year's Consumer Electronics Show just finished up in Las Vegas. Amidst the many wonders was a huge showing and announcements of the next Great Thing in the realm of television – and no, sadly, it wasn't better programming. It's 3D TV! That's right, soon you'll thrill to 3D images in your very own home!

At least the TV manufacturers hope so. It seems that profits on HDTVs are dropping off as prices drop with the maturing of the technology. So the electronics companies need you to have a reason to replace that relatively-new TV with a new one (in 3D!).

Who remembers 3D movies? Hopefully nearly everyone, as there's a big one in theaters right now, Du…I mean Avatar. (Warning! Spoilers in the video – don't watch if you don't want to know about Avatar ahead of time.)


Sorry, got sidetracked.  Anyway – to see a 3D movie, you have to wear a pair of those stylish spectacles. Otherwise, the picture is just a blur. That's tolerable when you go to a theatre to watch a movie. But do you really want to be this guy:


in your own home? I'm not keen on the idea of having to put on glasses to watch TV. Sure, the new ones aren't as silly looking, but still – what if I want to read something, or work on the computer, glancing back between the laptop and the TV?  Plus, what if I have only four pairs of glasses and six people want to watch?  It's quadraphonic all over again. 

Intel is working on 3D without glasses and previewed it at the show – but you have to be viewing from a few certain places in order to watch.  That's why they are still in the labs cooking this tech – it's not ready yet.

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4 Responses to Quadrophenia

  1. Kirk Tirakian says:

    Some are making a bit of noise about AVATAR being like something they have seen before. The story for them is not original enough.

    They say there are only 7 plots. Reason? As humans we all think in certain ways cause of the way we are. Example: no one has their front door open into their kids bedroom unless they live in only one room.

    Long story short, I believe there are only 7 plots cause humans are hard wired that way. If you come up with the 8th plot, I’m sure it will prove lucrative sooner or later.

    For now, I’d say it is how the story was told that makes a difference.

  2. Kenneth says:

    Jack, this is amazing as I have been, over the last couple of weeks, pining for my old quadraphonic system. iPods and digital music are great – however there’s still no match for sliding vinyl onto your ‘quad’ turntable, easing back onto the sofa with the album cover in hand, and letting the smooth richness of it all soak in.

    I remember very clearly … 10 years old … late 1973 … putting the newly purchased “Dark Side of the Moon” on my Dad’s quad system … what a memory!

  3. Calvin says:

    Mr Beckman,

    Digging up the past – Quadrophenia. I believe that was an LP by the Who.

    Did you have Discreet or Matrix Quadraphonic.

  4. Jack Beckman says:

    I could never afford any quadrophonic stuff myself, but my wife had some which is now gathering dust in the basement (along with a spiffy 8-track player): a turntable and a quad-ready receiver (it needs an add-on to listen to a quad station).

    Yes, “Quadrophenia” is an album and song by The Who.