Porn pioneers: How adult entertainment boosts technology

Porn pioneers: How adult entertainment boosts technology

The omnipresence of porn is just as much about nudity and the well-endowed as it is technology. From chatbots to virtual reality, erotica drives innovation.

This is hardly surprising. But what you may not know is how much pornography has aided in the evolution and creation of the most coveted innovations. In fact, much of the technology we enjoy today is because of porn. From the iPhone touchscreen to the sexual driving force behind VR, pornography laid the groundwork for some of today’s most important technologies.

We’ve come a long ways from the writings of Pietro Arentino.

Printing press porn

Though sources cite Le Coucher de la Mariée as the birth of pornography, the erotic genre dates back much earlier than the 1896 film.

Johannes Gutenberg’s little machine both helped and hindered the growth and acceptance of pornography. With the increasing literacy and decreasing cost of printing, a completely new genre of human experience was created. But did you know one of the most well-respected literary works is also erotica? Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Though not written for the larger reading audience, this work was no less scandalous.

Super 8 at the Motel 6

The year was 1958. A young British photographer, Harrison Marks, began making 8mm short films of women undressing and posing topless. These films would become known as “glamour home movies.”

As technology advanced, the sales of 8mm cameras and projectors shot up. Super 8 cameras were cheap and extremely easy to use and, because of this convenience, became standard in the porn industry.

Debbie does standard formats

In the late 1970s, Betamax and VHS battled over which home viewing technology would reign supreme. Thanks to pornographers who settled the format war, selling adult content solely on VHS tapes and accounting for 50 percent of videotape sales in the US.

Jump ahead to the early 2000s, erotica once again changed the media format landscape welcoming DVDs with open arms… among other body parts.

Battle of the bulge

Like the format wars of the 70s and 90s, home viewing battled again with the advent of Blue-Ray discs. Though a technically lower picture quality, Blue-Ray discs offer up to nine hours of high-definition content… meaning more hours of hardcore hookups.

The MILF of cable tv

While it’s not the most glamorous story in the history books, it thanks a would-be ‘Girls Gone Wild’ that we have cable television. Before the Playboy Channel existed, there was the Manhattan Public Access Cable and it’s 80,000 subscribers.

Then George Urban launched “The Ugly George Hour of Truth, Sex and Violence,” where he convinced women on the streets of Manhattan to flash the camera. Thirteen episodes later, subscriptions were over 100,000. By the end of his second season, they were up to 300,000.

Looking for a friend

ASL, anyone?

Private chat sessions, peer-to-peer sharing, and other online social sites owe their existence to the porn industry. In the early 1990s, local, online communities were dominated by people buying, selling, and creating pornography. Domains like FriendFinder were founded the same year AOL launched its Instant messaging service.

Faster, faster, faster

Ever watched a flesh film on a dial-up connection? Not fun. While discussing dialup isn’t sexy, the demand for sexy content drove the market for improved internet infrastructure.

Penthouse led the charge when it began distributing 2400-baud modems to its readers so they could have faster access to the company’s XXX bulletin boards. As porn dominated the internet and the demand for more, different, better, and now, high-definition pornographic products, bandwidth was forced to grow.

Besides, we all know the internet is for porn:

Sensual streaming

The Netherlands is known for two things: Weed and red lights. But there should be a third – streaming.

In 1994, Dutch porn company, Red Light District, developed the first workable internet-based video streaming system. The company helped shape the internet as we know it today.

Online interaction

Web-cameras and online streaming capacities made another revolutionary turn in terms of production and consumption of pornography.

Long before digital nomads depended webcams and video chat, adult sites were the only places you could engage in any form of real-time interaction. X-rated domains allowed users to view a live feed of a person and engage in communication through a webcam.

Production of porn through webcams also became a widely accessible for amateur and home activities increasing the adoption of webcams and videography for everyday life.

Legal ease

While most people associate piracy with the latest Yeezy battle, the adult entertainment industry actually leads the charge against copyright infringement.

From BitTorrent to local college students, porn companies are leading the charge in the anti-piracy battle making it easier for the likes of T.Swift v. iTunes fiasco.

Bods and business models

Often credited as the first money-making business online, adult websites became a big part of online economy.

From affiliate marketing to pay-to-play systems, the porn industry paved the way for the likes of PayPal, eBay, and Amazon. Self-proclaimed “geek with big breasts” Danni Ashe launched the first commercial website, Danni’s Hard Drive, charging viewers for softcore porn.

And how did you charge for said content in the 90s? Electronic Card Systems – founded by Richard Gordon – introduced online payments. Porn began placing a primary focus on revenue and traffic optimization. New to market? The adult entertainment industry is a great business model.

Privacy, please

While your salesman won’t tell you, but privacy concerns surrounding pornography drove photogs to become early adopters of digital photography.

Can you imagine running to your local Walgreens to pick up your dirty pics? You can thank porn for that.

24 hours of unadulturated bliss

Did you know that Snapchat was originally used as a semi-porn/semi-sexting app? Thanks to automatic deletion of naughty messages, it became a huge hit.

And while the social platform has banned pornography, plenty of adult apps have been popping up in both the Apple store and Google Play.

The hot debate is access to normal-sounding programs by children looking for popular apps, but as these happy-button-pressy-fun-times are in such high demand, both Google and Apple seem to be dragging their feet on restricting the erotic tech. And really, why wouldn’t they offer what the market wants?

First-person participation

When Google Glass was first announced, one of the immediate reactions was how it would change the viewer’s perspective in porn. Though, the technology did not gain a widespread popularity, some videos now incorporate the elements/recordings from the glasses.

Google Glass really could be considered the Holy Grail device for pornography offering the ultimate in vicarious point-of-view experience.

Touchy feely technology

From Huggies’ pregnancy belt to Apple’s Taptic Engine, products are possible because porn pushed the technology. Adding sense and touch to pornography is a forefront of innovation. In the battle for advancing technology, NSFW leads the way in innovation, not just sex but for life in general.

Losing your VRginity

With the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift – followed by more affordable headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard – VR is readily available for the masses.

According to research, wearable VR head mounted shipments will hit three million this year, increasing to ten times that amount by 2020.


First point-of-view perspective just got real. No longer is it merely about watching porn, it’s about experiencing it. As VR technology continues gaining popularity, adult entertainment companies will pursue immersive products that could speed VR adoption. Including 360 degree viewing.

VR content supports 360 degree viewing spectrum with a 60 frames per second video quality. Further improvement of the quality should make VR porn a strong adult industry market player within the next two years.

And as VR glasses become synchronized with sex toys and stimulators and smartphones, these advances and uses of virtual reality in erotica are just the beginning.

Beyond your basic blowup

While some people fear a future of killer robots, sex robots are on the horizon.

Doing it with a robot may be just a weird sexual fantasy, but with the fast-paced development of science and technology, sex with a robot might very well become a reality in the not too distant future.

According to sex psychologist Helen Driscoll, “robotic, interactive, motion-sensing technology is likely to become more and more central to the sex industry in the next few years.”

What’s to come

Like it or not, porn is responsible for driving technology adoption in big ways. From the first inklings of film to the rise of e-commerce, pornography has been the catalyst that has launched technology forward.

For the sake of innovation, it’s a good thing people are so damn horny.

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