Imagine sitting down to watch television images that leap from the screen in such quality the pictures seem three-dimensional.
Even for the average living room those days may not be too far into the future, especially combined with high definition television. A lot has changed since televisions primarily used rabbit ears and tinfoil for reception and exhibited a test pattern after programming ended at midnight.
After 22 years in business and following a recent store renovation, Tom and Deb Sampson of Tom's TV say keeping up with the changing technology is a challenge.
It may be a little while before most living rooms have high definition television. For now those with a little extra spending cash can purchase the pieces of a home entertainment system that were not seen outside of movie palaces before. Amenities include theater seating and floor movement to match the movie experience -- such as a dinosaur walking and shaking the earth.
In the expanded Tom's TV, a hallway area houses panel controls, for customers to test, that administer music in various home rooms. The panels may also control TV settings so a single button starts the set and picks the favorite morning news show at the same time.
Those aspects to the home entertainment business are part of the recent expansion at Tom's TV in northeast Brainerd. And it turned a woodworking hobby into part of the job as the business has evolved into cabinetry design and furniture nearly as much as electronics.
"A lot of what we do is custom design and installation," owner Tom Sampson said.
The business expansion provided an opportunity to create a home-like setting and lighting to display television sets that can cost $400 to $10,000. Part of the need for additional space came from the changing home entertainment industry with sets that are larger and larger. A 42-inch screen, 3 1/2 inches thick is designed to hang on the wall and costs $7,999.
Newer sets are wider than they are tall, accommodating the wide-screen motion picture images that can create those black bars on the top and bottom -- often called letter box formats -- on regular TV sets.
Sampson said their business, which handles Sony and Pioneer elite products almost exclusively for sales, does not compete with discount or chain stores but focuses on higher end products. Work in area lake homes led to jobs designing home systems in Las Vegas. One such job called for a 10-foot screen flanked by six 32-inch screen televisions.
Another project included a TV that rises from a hidden spot in a master bedroom foot board at the push of a button. The TV also rotates 120 degrees so it can be viewed from a separate sitting area when watchers are not in bed.
Most requests are to conceal electronics, DVDs, VCRs, CD players and the wires involved. A Crosslake customer had a home theater designed with a media center, stage and curtain.
Sampson said he purchased the existing television business in 1979. The previous store was in the same neighborhood in northeast Brainerd. In the early 1980s they moved to their current location on Washington Street. Now the business has 11 employees.
Now Sampson said they design a lot of remote control systems for the complex systems so consumers can use one key stroke to access entertainment pieces like DVDs. Sampson said much of their work comes with new homes as they are designed. Electronics are not set up until carpet is laid and building dust is less of a concern.
In addition to the showroom, Tom's TV is still working on completing a smaller home theater room where customers can experience the entertainment center system and the floor that uses motors to create a subtle movement in response to viewed images, either those dinosaurs or the rumbling of a jet engine.
"When you are sitting in the chair it grabs your attention," Sampson said.
Sampson said customers can get a basic home theater system for $699 with surround sound and DVD player. Others have spent up to $125,000.
The future is likely to see more integration of systems and more computerized controls. One option includes a CD server where thousands of songs are available upon request. A different song or genre can play simultaneously in the kitchen, bedroom or bath. Consumers may need just one button on a wall keypad to access their personal list of favorites.
Houses are now wired for such smart homes during construction. Sampson said retrofitting older homes is fairly easy and wires can be camouflaged with crown molding or hidden in baseboards.
When he started in the business in Brainerd Sampson said Sony had big console TVs with tape decks and turn tables that sold for $10,000.
"I couldn't see ever selling a $10,000 TV in Brainerd, Minnesota, and now it's a daily occurrence," he said.
Sampson said the days when he was asked to change a vacuum TV tube are long gone.
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