Home Theater

20 Smart Home Technologies Way Ahead of Their Time

Home Automation and home entertainment products that coulda shoulda woulda had a longer life span, if only .... Remember Kenwood Sovereign Entre? Frox? Premise Systems? WebTV? Philips Streamium?

20 Smart Home Technologies Way Ahead of Their Time
Some of these grand ol' A/V and home-automation technologies paved the way for their modern counterparts: Laserdisc begat DVDs; CEBus initiated device-definitions for smart-home devices (but powerline fizzled); MasterVoice divined mass-market voice control; Advent VideoBeam launched a home-theater revolution.

Photos & Slideshow

Julie Jacobson · November 30, 2017

[Note: Story oringially was posted on May 24, 2013, but since we're talking about the 1980s ...]


Who remembers the Philips CD-1? What about MasterVoice Butler in a Box? Unity Motion?

There are some old smart-home products and companies that all the gray-haired integrators seem to remember from the days of yore, sometimes fondly but mostly not. We compiled 20 audio, video and home-automation products that were ahead of their time. They were gathered from editors, industry friends and a lengthy LinkedIn post that brought back a lot of great memories.

We had no idea how many old farts would show up to participate in the conversation. Some 25 CE pros shared recollections of products they sold, technologies they adored and companies they abhorred. Here are some of the memories they shared (edited for clarity):


“I remember thinking to myself when ReplayTV came out, ‘Why would someone need that, when they can already record on their VCR for much less money?’” - Dave Hartfelder, Diamond Case Designs


Unity Motion was fighting an uphill battle. I still have one of their tuners in my, um, ‘museum.’” - Tom Walker, CI Guys


“I was the rep for the Kloss NovaBeam and the Advent VideoBeam at retail before that. Spent too many hours to count in my socks on some customer’s couch with a plastic screwdriver converging those things!” - Wayne Ortner, Energy Squad


The Advent is memorialized in an episode of ‘All In The Family,’ when Archie first owns Kelsey’s Bar, he rents the unit and advertises that he has a big screen TV set up for Super Bowl Sunday. He winds up getting robbed at the end of the day.” - Dave Dallafior, DVR Plus


“One piece was the SAE 5000a Impulse Noise Reduction System. It got rid of those pops and crackles associated with vinyl records. Ahhh them were the days.” - Artie Stein, Pacific Sales


“The Frox was sooooo far ahead of its time it was hard for people to grasp why/how it could be used.” - Pat Johnson, UltraMedia


Mattel Intellivision video game console - I still have a console, the voice module and games. Playing football and the players talking to you … It was far ahead of Sega and Atari.” - Michael Jorewicz, Elite Marketing

What are the 20 Technologies? Check out the slideshow


“I will go with the CORE remote control (CL9). It was out there way before anything else like it in the market. Unfortunately it was just too far ahead of its time.” - Kevin Billingsley, Atlona


“Does anyone remember the TATE System from the 70’s? It was going to be the savior of matrix encoded quadraphonic sound.” - Jay Frank, Evolution Audio & Video


“My family didn’t have a TV. As a gift to the folks, I started building a color TV from Heathkit. Took a little more than three years to build it. I was shocked when I saw that ‘Star Trek’ was in color.” - Michael Hince, sales and technology training


And now, the future ....

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · Control & Automation · Automation · Networking & Cables · HDMI · News · Media · Slideshow · 20 Years · Industry Insider · Slow News Day · All Topics
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