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Media technologies are changing everyday and now offer us more than ever before. These changes are apparent in all aspects of media from the internet to MiniDisc and the ways in which they are all merging together. I am going to look at some of these media changes and at convergence. Firstly I am going to look at the internet. The latest development of the internet is broadband. Broadband is the method of sending and receiving data over high speed networks, it is a far faster way of connecting to the internet using your computer than is possible through a conventional dial up method.

The benefits of broadband to the customer are its speed, its permanent connection to the net, its flat rate and its dedicated connection. There are four different ways of connecting to broadband, ADSL, cable, wireless and satellite. Satellite is the only one of the four which can be used all over the UK, the others are all specific to telephone exchange companies. Using broadband offers you all the things which a standard dial up does but it will be faster and easier to access. There are also new services specifically for broadband users such as downloading large files like MP3’s and viewing good quality video clips.

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Magazines have now begun offering their consumers new experiences, via the internet. When you read a magazine all the information is print based and the only interactivity is from text or email. I went to the Rolling Stone website to see what I could do from it and how good the quality was. Because I have broadband it only took 5 seconds for a video clip to download to my Windows Media Player. The site also had a search engine which made it easy for me to find anything that I wanted. Additionally the site has a list of songs which you can download but you must be in America to get access to them.

There are archives of old video clips and articles so you can see them whenever you want to. None of this could be possible in a magazine. The way in which we use music is also changing. MP3 and MiniDisc technology is becoming increasingly popular, MP3 is a near-CD quality file format which allows CD’s to be reduced to about a tenth of their size. MiniDiscs are a disc based digital medium for both recording and distributing audio, the disc is enclosed in a small, convenient cartridge. When I conducted a survey about digital music, I found that MP3 was the favourite way of obtaining and listening to music.

The main reason for this was that it is easy to access and, in most cases, free. An MP3 player has memory enough to store between 400 and 800 tracks, depending on the manufacturer. This is much more convenient than carrying 20 or so CD’s and is definitely a lot lighter. This gives us an experience of portability which we could not have had previously. Recently, there has been a major change in the mobile phone industry. The arrival of 3G, also known as UMTS is changing the ways in which we use our mobiles. 3G is a technology that allows fast access to the internet on a mobile phone, allowing users to access e-mail, videos, and the web.

There are many services that will be available to us with 3G, for example, mobile phone users should be able to play games online, bet online, get news, weather reports, book restaurants, theatres and get travel directions. From your phone you can film short video clips and send them to other 3G users. You can also take photos which can either be sent to other 3G phones or to an email address. In the future we will probably be able to watch television from our 3G phones, as users in Korea are already experiencing. The way forward for television has been the move towards digital rather than analogue.

Digital technology provides a more efficient way to deliver television than with analogue transmissions and enables the same services to be delivered in less space with greater quality. Computer technology is used to convert sound and pictures into a digital format and to compress them, using as few bits as possible to convey the information on a digital signal. This technique enables several television channels to be carried in the space used by the current analogue signals to carry one channel. Digital television is available through satellite, cable and terrestrial aerials.

The main benefits of digital television are, the improved picture, the better audio performance, its extra channels and the enhanced interactive services, These can include electronic programme guides, information services, different camera angles /soundtracks, games, sms/chat and email to digital subtitling and audio description services to assist hearing and visually impaired people. Radio has also begun to make the digital transition. DAB radio uses the same technologies as digital television and therefore offers the listener much more choice than FM.

There is room for a lot more stations, with some towns and cities receiving up to 40 stations. This means that we can enjoy a diversity of listening with stations to suit every taste. The improved sound quality means that there will be no hissing or crackling. There are also no frequency numbers to remember, just flick through the channel names until you find the one that you want. The LCD display can often let you know the song title and artist, or even what song is coming up next. Unlike FM radio where the frequency of national stations changes across the country, all DAB channels never move, making it simpler and more convenient.

And, more than all this, it’s free! The experiences being offered to us by new media technologies are changing every day. We are moving in to an age of convergence, where, one day, all our media needs will be satisfied by one piece of equipment. The change has already begun slowly with products such as TiVo, the Nokia Ngage and the PSX. Although these are only incorporating two or three media technologies, the wheels are now in motion for a super machine which will give us new experiences like we’ve never imagined.

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