TV WiresI geeked out a bit on the weekend: first I wired up the house with Cat6 ethernet, and then I decided to rearrange the TV cabinet so that everything was self contained. Disregarding for a minute the motivation of a crawling eight-month-old, I’m positive that there has to be a better way to do this Audio-Visual wiring thing.

Take my TV cabinet. Inside the cabinet we have a video recorder, a DVD player, a satellite decoder, and an XBox. If we include the TV itself, then as far as external connections are concerned, we have five separate power cables, two aerial cables (VHF and Satellite), a phone line, and an ethernet connection. Don’t even get me started on interconnects – and we don’t even have surround speakers. So what you see in the attached image is the absolute best I can do in terms of baby-proofing our TV cabinet. Pretty appalling really.

Right about now I expect all the geek readers will be screaming “But you can do away with the video, DVD, and decoder by chipping your XBox and installing Tivo-like and satellite decoding software on it!!” My responses are several and varied:

  • Tell that to my mum and dad. They’ve only just got a DVD player, never mind a media PC. The TV cabinet cable conundrum goes well beyond the realms of geekdom.
  • My wife uses the video recorder to record and dub programs for her high school work. Yes a DVD recorder could do the same thing, but I could buy a second PC for the price of a DVD recorder these days.
  • Ok, ok I admit it. I want a media PC godammit, I just haven’t got around to building one yet. Alright?

So surely there must be a better way? Was the Scart plug meant to be our saviour? I guess not, given that the scart spec doesn’t even seem to take account of more than two channels of audio. As an engineer/geek, my ultimate system would consist of a standard 19 inch rack mounted inside the TV cabinet, with some sort of backplane that provided a basic power supply and bus. Nothing fancy, just maybe a big 32 or 64 pin plug, located in such a way that if a deviced was inserted into the rack, the plug would connect with the back of the device. Then the cabinet itself could have a few outputs for standard interconnect cables (aerial, phone, and ethernet inputs; SPDIF or RCA for connecting a stereo; S-video, etc.).

Then every Sony, Panasonic, Kamakuza and Microsoft would be hounded to build all media devices into a 19″ rack case (1U would be enough for almost anything, but allowances could be made for larger cases), with the aforementioned connector on the back of it.

What would the sacrifice be? The only thing I can think of is that Sony and Microsoft would not be able to have funky designs for their consoles. Boo hoo. Think about it – the serious audiophiles could pay thousands for their Harmon-Kardon branded, 6-foot tall, geo-isolated A/V rack with gold-plated connectors, smoked glass door, and opto-isolated, soundproofed power supply. The riceboys could fit theirs out with cold cathode illumination and innumerable high-cfm case fans to extract all the heat produced by their chipped, overclocked Xbox3 in its custom 3u case. They’d love it. Meanwhile I could get a plain vanilla wooden TV cabinet to which I could connect my simple power/ethernet/aerial loom, slide in my devices, and bingo.

A man can dream can’t he?

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