Now that satellite TV and home theater systems have become almost ubiquitous, what's next? It's called "whole house entertainment," and it means pretty much what it sounds like: entertainment systems that emanate from a central source to deliver music or images throughout the house. "Networking of devices and systems is the buzz, and that will be true for some time," says Hetherington. "Integration of entertainment systems makes a lot of sense and that is where we are going."

In layman's terms, this means you'll be able to reduce the volume of the music in your son's room to a dull roar, without leaving the living room. Even better, program your new system to pipe in some Barry Manilow. Now, that's revenge.

Even for the homeowner well-versed in technospeak, navigating the home technology marketplace can feel like driving through downtown Boston. In a tractor-trailer. With no reverse. To help make your journey easier, we sat down with Bob Hetherington for some straight talk on home technology.

American Way: I'm building a new house, and would like to incorporate some of these technologies. But given that my computer was obsolete within months of purchase, won't these technologies meet the same fate?

Bob Hetherington
: Not really. If you install lots of wiring and do a bit of planning, you'll be covered. Manufacturers don't really want to leave you behind; they want you to get more out of the infrastructure you already have. Yes, there will always be newer and better technologies being developed, but if you want to upgrade, there will most likely be backward compatibility in some form. Even the wireless market seems to be settling down to a common technology standard.

American Way: I'm confused. You're telling me to install wiring, but I thought wireless was all the rage?