Career Opportunities
A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Bringing Technology Home

March 12, 2004

Discuss High Tech Careers

For decades we have all been enticed with visions of our technological future. Everything from Verne’s A Trip to the Moon to The Jetson’s has told us that the future will contain all sorts of wonderful technologies for the home. We would have robot maids, automatic kitchens and holographic televisions. While reality has certainly lagged behind the fantasy, we are getting there. One major change over the last year or two has been the growing integration between computer components and home entertainment hardware. Exploiting this trend could yield a big boost to your high-tech career.

It starts with a simple question

I first noticed a change in my business several years ago. Where normally a client would have me in to troubleshoot, repair or install a new computer, I started getting different requests. “Can you hook up my DVD player? How do I get my digital cable to work with it? Can you setup this new VCR? How do I connect my Tivo to the phone line?” What’s more, these requests have continued to grow. As computers themselves grow more stable and easier to operate, people are starting to understand that the gulf between computer technology and home technology is quickly closing. They also understand that, as with their computer, they need someone to help them figure out all the options and build a system were all this technology works together.

Of course, assisting your clients with home technologies will require a bit of learning on your part, but the benefits to be gained will easily outweigh the time required. Even better, more and more home technologies are merely extensions of existing computer technology, repurposed for the home.

Losing the wires

One major example of just such a repurposing are the 802.11x wireless networking standards. I have installed many of these networks over the last 2 years and it seems that a majority of my work will continue to be the installation and maintenance of these systems. As wireless networks have become more commonplace, I am starting to see uses beyond the original purpose. Wireless connections to video gaming systems and PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) like Tivo and ReplyTV can now use the same network that were originally installed for the family’s PCs. I am sure that we will see even more devices that can connect to these networks in the coming year. It makes perfect sense. When you have a network installed, why not use it to connect as many devices as possible. This will allow your clients to reap growing benefits from their networks without pulling cables throughout the house.

Partner up

One way to make the most of this technology integration in your own career may be to partner with an existing home entertainment installer, at least for a short period of time. These contractors are experiencing the same issues that you are, just from a different direction. More and more of their clients are asking for computer setups and assistance and more home entertainment technology is requiring some form of computer skills to install and set up. A partnership can allow you to expand your potential client base while learning the other side of the technology market. Offer to teach the home entertainment contractor about 802.11x networking, Ethernet, cable modems and routers and they can explain the intricacies of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, digital DVD inputs and plasma displays. Sure, you could learn about this on your own, but a good partnership could speed your ability to fully exploit this growing market.

It is almost certain that this integration between traditional computer technology and home entertainment will continue for the foreseeable future. You need to start building your skills today so that you can take full advantage. In my own personal career, I can see home entertainment technology as being a large portion of my work in the future. It only makes sense. Home entertainment technology is growing ever more complex and ever more computer-like. In the coming years, the term “computer consultant” might disappear, replaced by the more appropriate “technology consultant.” To me, it seems an obvious evolution and one that will deeply effect your high-tech career.

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