It is remarkable to consider how many of the leisure activities that we enjoy today had their origins several centuries ago. Despite the multitude of complex video games on offer and the seemingly endless viewing options available at streaming services, forms of entertainment created by bright sparks hundreds of years ago still command our attention. In the 21st century, the rapid development of new technologies has caused these entertainment forms to evolve, while retaining the key elements that made them so popular in the first place.
Here is a look at four old activities that have benefited from new technology. The common thread running through all of these is that digitization has made previously exclusive or impractical endeavors more accessible to a much wider audience.
Theater is one of the world’s oldest forms of entertainment, one that was enjoyed in Ancient Greece from 600 BC. While the feeling of witnessing a show in person can never be surpassed, the reality is that not everyone has the time or the budget to travel to the leading theaters. This is why theaters have sought to utilize cutting-edge technology to bring the stage into aficionados’ living rooms.
Booking a show on Broadway can be an intimidating experience, with hefty ticket prices combining with travel costs to produce an expensive trip. This is where BroadwayHD saves the day, as this on-demand streaming platform features several live performances of shows. Its library includes both newly-recorded shows and footage from years gone by, so subscribers don’t need to worry if they missed a show’s run on Broadway or on London’s West End. This is where live streaming can be a great leveler, as anyone can access some of theater’s most iconic musicals and plays.
While not quite as old as theater, card games have been around for centuries. Blackjack is one of the oldest known card games, with its origins definitively traced back to the 17th century. That was when Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes made references to the comparing card game in his 1601 short story ‘Rinconete y Cortadillo’, which has earned a score of 3.14/5 on Goodreads, but the likelihood is that variations of blackjack existed years beforehand.
Physically playing blackjack requires many elements: space to lay out the cards, a dealer, and something to wager. Technology has solved these logistical issues, with Betway Casino, for example, hosting a range of online blackjack games that can be played via a mobile app. There’s also the option to play face-to-face with a human dealer courtesy of a detailed HD feed, as casinos are taking advantage of the same streaming technology as theaters. The core features of blackjack, like its emphasis on strategy and statistical probabilities, are as compelling as they were over 400 years ago, but the development of mobile technology and HD streams makes this classic card game much more practical.
Golf remains a refreshingly simple sport compared to many of its contemporaries. There’s no need for video assistant referees or Hawk-Eye technology, as the basic objective is straightforward: hit the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible. Bryson DeChambeau’s focus on power may force the sport to evolve in the coming years, as DeChambeau can hit 300-yard iron shots like they are the easiest thing in the world. It is fair to say that golfers in 15th-century Scotland, who are attributed as being the forefathers of modern golf, would have looked at DeChambeau in awe.
In defense of those Scots in the 1400s, most 2020 audiences also look at DeChambeau in that way. There are ways that casual golfers can try and emulate the PGA Tour’s leading pros on their own. One example is the Live View Golf app, which utilizes live streaming technology with the intention of improving your swing. The Live View camera streams your swing directly onto your smartphone’s app, so you can observe and correct your form in real-time. That kind of development would previously require a golfing coach to assess the swing, but technology has given players the capability to go out independently and hone their technique.
The importance of modern technology to photography needs no elaboration, given that any smartphone owner has a camera in their pocket or bag wherever they go. An aspiring photographer doesn’t necessarily need to purchase any specialist equipment, as flagship smartphones can take increasingly detailed pictures. Apple are expected to integrate a laser 3D camera into iPhones to produce photos with new levels of depth, while the smartphone giant has also touted its triple-lens camera as a viable alternative to high-quality traditional cameras.
Nicéphore Niépce produced the world’s earliest surviving photograph in the 1820s, and photography soon became both a pastime and a profession for many people in the 19th century. One of the primary purposes of 19th-century photography was to provide a visual document of families, whether to remember family members who lived a distance away or who were deceased. Even with all of our selfie cameras and multiple lenses, those ideas of capturing loved ones in photos and capturing photos for loved ones remains a key motivation for photography. You just don’t need to sit and pose for someone else anymore, thanks to smartphone cameras.
Many of our preferred entertainment activities have been enjoyed for centuries, but technology has caused them to evolve to become more accessible. Streaming technology enables people to connect at home to other humans, whether that’s the cast of a Broadway show or a blackjack dealer. In terms of golf and photography, technology has provided the flexibility to turn collaborative processes into individual activities. Despite all of our electronic devices, our entertainment desires are perhaps not so different from previous generations.