We loved our ReplayTV. It didn't merely replace the venerable VCR, it literally transformed TV. No more setting the clock, or programming start/stop times. No more fumbling to insert or rewind tapes. Instead, we now had a 2-week program guide to search and record shows automatically. We could pause live TV when the phone rang, watch while the rest of the program was still recording, and even skip commercials. We could watch one show while another was recording, watch in other rooms, and archive shows to optical disc.
Then, in 2007, digital wide-screen HD cable arrived. ReplayTV was analog, and I found myself at a technological crossroads: keep the features of ReplayTV, or advance to live digital cable? Being both the consummate videophile and electronics engineer, I rejected the premise of choosing between them. At that time only one option was available: build a digital HD DVR myself.
The idea didn't seem crazy – hobbyists had paved the way long before me with several “open source” code projects, and at least one had begun supporting HD digital (ATSC) tuner cards. I was already well-versed in the linux operating system. I had detailed technical knowledge of PC hardware and had built many linux-based PCs. I told myself, “this should take about two weeks”. I was wrong.
As it turns out, there are countless detailed technical dependencies on hardware components, linux drivers, software libraries, channel / frequency configuration, network performance, access to program guide data, thermal stability issues, and more. Each and every problem required patiently researching and/or inventing a solution. Meanwhile, my family was ready to go back to analog ReplayTV!
“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Jonathan Swift
After nearly 6 months, stability was achieved (and my marriage saved)! Yet my vision continually expanded. The first was one remote control for all functions. DVD and Blu-Ray disc playback came next, then importing our entire disc library to hard disk for online convenience. Next, I built more for every screen in our home, all integrated together. After that, adding content playback on tablets, and outside the home, then integrating streaming services, and so on. Along the way, many more technical hurdles were overcome to realize the dream. Friends and family told me it was brilliant and should be a commercial product.
Seven years after installing that very first working system, I began entertaining the idea of sharing this technology in the form of a commercial product. Following initial feasibility and competitive market analysis, I evaluated the latest advances in hardware technology and determined that it would be very practical to create a fully commercialized product. Modulus Media Systems was officially formed 3 months ago, and we have a team developing an initial product line for release next year.
Future blogs will delve further into upcoming product plans and details, as well as share our experiences in forming a tech startup from scratch. Please stay tuned for much more to come!