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convergent device that combines some or all the capabilities of a personal computer with a software application that supports video, photo, audio playback, and sometimes video recording functionality. In recent years, other types of consumer electronics, including game consoles and dedicated media devices, have crossed over to manage video and music content. The term “media center” also refers to specialized application software designed to run on standard personal computers.

HTPC and other convergent devices integrate components of a home theater into a unit co-located with a home entertainment system. An HTPC system typically has a remote control and the software interface normally has a 10-foot (3 m) user interface design so that it can be comfortably viewed at typical television viewing distances. An HTPC can be purchased pre-configured with the required hardware and software needed to add video programming or music to the PC.

Integrating televisions and personal computers dates back to the late 1980s with tuner cards that could be added to Commodore Amiga PCs via the Video Toaster. This adaptation would allow a small video window to appear on the screen with broadcast or cable content. Apple Computer also developed the Macintosh TV in late 1993 that included a tuner card built into a Macintosh LC 520 chassis but quickly withdrew from the market with only 10,000 units shipped

The advent of fully digital HDTV displays helped to complete the value and ease of use of a HTPC system. Digital projectors, plasma and LCD displays often came pre-configured to accept computer video outputs including VGA, DVI and Component Video. Furthermore, both the computers and the displays could include video scalers to better conform the image to the screen format and resolutions. Likewise, computers also included HDMI ports that carry both audio and video signals to home video displays or AV receivers.