The Entertainment Console
There was once a time when tablets, smartphones, and 4K flat-screen televisions did not exist, but many American homes had what were called, “entertainment centers.
At the beginning of the 1960s, the suburban livingroom was often filled with Danish modern, French or Italian provincial furniture, and used only by adults on special occasions. But the whole family utilized the den or “rec room,” and the centerpiece was the family entertainment console.
They were usually equipped with a stereo record turntable for playing vinyl LPs, an AM/FM radio, and of course, a television. The big draw was the television. In 1960, it may still have been black & white, but more affluent families went for the color set. They were rather expensive—even in the prosperous time of the space race.
From compact units with the turntable and AM/FM radio accessed from a hinged lid to gigantic credenzas measuring ten feet wide including stereo speaker cabinets at the ends, each as wide as a clothes dryer. For audiophiles of the time, stereo LPs demonstrated how one’s home could sound like a concert hall or movie theater. Popular albums of the time included soundtracks from Broadway productions and movies like The Sound of Music, Camelot, Exodus, West Side Story, and Blue Hawaii. Another popular genre was comedy. Listeners loved The First Family (which was a spoof of the Kennedy family) and My Son, the Folk Singer with Allan Sherman.
Sometimes the entertainment center spanned the width of the available wall, but that didn’t matter to the generation of kids watching The Ed Sullivan Show, Hullabaloo, Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bob Cummings, or The Joey Bishop Show.
These gigantic vacuum tube systems gradually gave way to solid-state (transistorized) Stereos, AM/FM radio, and even televisions.
Another new fad was the “component” system which allowed customized mixing and matching of tuners, amplifiers, TV sets, and started to include reel-to-reel tape recorders and 4 track tape players.
Thus, by the end of the 1960s, the massive entertainment center was a dinosaur.