Consumer electronics

A crowd of shoppers in the flatscreen TV section of the big box consumer electronics store Best Buy.
A Radio Shack consumer electronics store in a mall.

Consumer electronics or home electronics are electronic or digital equipment intended for everyday use, typically in private homes. Consumer electronics include devices used for entertainment ( flatscreen TVs, DVD players, DVD movies, iPods, video games, remote control cars, etc.), communications ( telephones, cell phones, e-mail-capable laptops, etc.), and home-office activities (e.g., desktop computers, printers, paper shredders, etc.). In British English, they are often called brown goods by producers and sellers, to distinguish them from "white goods" such as washing machines and refrigerators. [1] [n 1] In the 2010s, this distinction is not always present in large big box consumer electronics stores, such as Best Buy, which sell both entertainment, communications, and home office devices and kitchen appliances such as refrigerators. Consumer electronics stores differ from professional audio stores in that the former sells consumer-grade electronics for private use, whereas the latter sells professional-grade electronics designed for use by audio engineers and audio technicians.

Radio broadcasting in the early 20th century brought the first major consumer product, the broadcast receiver. Later products included telephones, personal computers, MP3 players, audio equipment, televisions (first cathode ray tube TVs, then in the 2000s, flatscreen TVs) and calculators. In the 2010s, consumer electronics stores often sell GPS, automotive electronics ( car stereos), video game consoles, electronic musical instruments (e.g., synthesizer keyboards), karaoke machines, digital cameras, and video players ( VCRs in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by DVD players and Blu-ray disc players). Stores also sell digital cameras, camcorders, cell phones, and smartphones. As of 2016, some of the newer products sold include virtual reality head-mounted display goggles, smart home devices that connect home devices to the Internet (such as smartphone-controllable thermostats and lights) and wearable technology such as Fitbit digital exercise watches.

In the 2010s, most products have become based on digital technologies, and have largely merged with the computer industry in what is increasingly referred to as the consumerization of information technology. Some consumer electronics stores, such as Best Buy have also begun selling office and baby furniture. Consumer electronics stores may be " bricks and mortar" physical retail stores, online stores, where the consumer chooses items on a website and pays online (e.g, Amazon). or a combination of both models (e.g., Best Buy has both bricks and mortar stores and an e-commerce website for ordering its products). The CEA ( Consumer Electronics Association) estimated the value of 2015 consumer electronics sales at US$220 billion. [3]


A radio and TV store in 1961.

For its first fifty years the phonograph turntable did not use electronics; the needle and soundhorn were purely mechanical technologies. However, in the 1920s radio broadcasting became the basis of mass production of radio receivers. The vacuum tubes that had made radios practical were used with record players as well, to amplify the sound so that it could be played through a loudspeaker. Television was soon invented, but remained insignificant in the consumer market until the 1950s. The transistor, invented in 1947 by Bell Laboratories, led to significant research in the field of solid-state semiconductors in the early 1950s. The transistor's advantages revolutionized that industry along with other electronics. By 1959 Fairchild Semiconductor had introduced the first planar transistor from which come the origins of Moore's Law. [4] Integrated circuits followed when manufacturers built circuits (usually for military purposes) on a single substrate using electrical connections between circuits within the chip itself. Bell's invention of the transistor and the development of semiconductors led to far better and cheaper consumer electronics, such as transistor radios, televisions, and by the 1980s, affordable video game consoles and personal computers that regular middle class families could buy.