A similar sense of peril-laced trailblazing now exists in the TV industry, as the traditional image of people sitting on the sofa watching the tube increasingly splinters into multi-screens, all connected to a myriad of endless data streams.
Broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and media companies are now pondering their future in this multi-screen world - chiefly, just how do they move with their audience while still making a healthy profit? Digital Spy investigates some of the ways to navigate the uncharted waters of the connected age.
At a panel session in London organised by US technology giant Rovi and FutureSource Consulting, various television industry figures came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities they are now facing.
Average linear TV viewing increased by more than two hours a week last year, driven by hugely popular shows such as The X Factor, according to a report by TV marketing body Thinkbox.
However, there is also a growing trend of people consuming television while using laptops, tablet computers and smartphones. Meanwhile, video on-demand and timeshift services such as Sky+ are giving consumers more options than ever before of when, where and how to watch TV.
Few people would dispute that good content will always be the king, but question marks remain over how that content should be delivered, and whether the TV in people's living rooms is as relevant as it once was.
Korean electronics company Samsung holds around 33% of the flat panel television market in Europe, and its Smart TV range has been at the forefront of the new connected TV space - TV sets that are linked to the internet and can access services such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
Connected TV is arguably getting more buzz in the industry right now than 3D, mostly because of the huge possibilities it could offer to content and platform owners. Dan Saunders, head of content services at Samsung, said that connected TV needs to reach a "critical mass" with consumers to really become mainstream. But a big issue with smart TV sets has been whether people are actually connecting them at all.
Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist at electronic programme guide and metadata provider Rovi, said that research has indicated that only 15% of connected TVs purchased in the early days of the product were actually being linked to the net.
This was partially down to the lack of proper guidance from retailers as to what the TVs actually do, but also it was due to the poor quality of apps available on the sets. Bullwinkle said that many TVs offered services such as maps or stock updates that were handled much better on other devices, such as smartphones.
But the connection rate for smart TVs is now well above 50%, largely because the market is maturing and consumer electronics firms have learnt not to offer just "walls of icons", but instead focus on the "key services" that consumers want to see on their TV screens.
Saunders said that Samsung was surprised by the low early connection rate, but agreed with Bullwinkle that companies are now getting a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. He said that Samsung is focused on targeting "addressable markets", such as the 10m British homes that have Freeview but are also interested in getting digital services such as iPlayer.
"It's not a game of having 300,000 or 400,000 apps on the TV, at least not yet," said Saunders. "It's about finding the services that make sense to consumers and draw them into the platform."
However, Bullwinkle believes that there is a danger of using apps, which were made famous in the mobile world, in connected TV. He said that apps can "compartmentalise" content, which runs counter to the discovery process of browsing TV channels for something to watch.
He also stressed said that there is not a "one size fits all" solution to how TV will be consumed in future, and its most likely going to be a "generational experience". The music industry has been ravaged over the years by its slowness to react to the shift in music consumption to online, often via illicit means.
Bullwinkle said that the video industry has been quick to implement sophisticated protection measures, such as DRM, and has also been "unwilling to exchange TV dollars for internet pennies". But in the mad scramble to protect traditional profit margins, is there a danger that exciting new revenue generating opportunities could be missed?
The debate about connected TV taps into a buzzword circulating the industry at the moment - convergence. Some stakeholders believe that convergence involves uniting the TV and the internet on the same big screen, meaning users can flick between their favourite channels and updating their status on Facebook.
However, another school of thought is that TV is an experience that is best consumed in the company of other screens, such as tablets computers, and the real challenge and opportunity is getting all these screens to talk to each other.
Technology is available now that can simulcast a TV channel on an iPad so that viewers can continue watching if they move into another room. Equally, most broadcasters run companion apps and games for their major shows, allowing viewers to vote and interact in realtime, such as the last series of Sky1's Got To Dance.
The multi-screen approach to TV viewing can certainly provide a lucrative opportunity for those who are willing to embrace it. Richard Burrell is the director of new media at QVC, the shopping channel that launched in the UK 17 years ago.
He described QVC as the "most unashamedly commercial form of TV", as its programming is all about selling. In Britain, QVC earns 75% of its income from electronic routes (he would not give exact figures but said that it was north of £350m a year) including its website, touchtone ordering, a QVC iPhone app and via interactive TV.
Burrell said that most QVC purchases (which can go as high as £5,000) are "impulse buys", whereas shopping on the net is "considered", meaning people consciously search for certain items. Connected TV offers a middle ground of a "considered impulse buy", in which people make a snap decision to purchase a product after seeing it, but also expect more information before taking the plunge.
By harnessing the possibilities of connected TV and the multi-screen approach, Burrell believes that companies like QVC can find additional ways to serve their customers, while also making a healthy return in the process. However, for TV and media services relying almost exclusively on revenues drawn from advertising the picture is less clear.
Jean-Pierre Fumagalli is the chief executive of smartclip, which monetises content for broadcasters and media firms across various platforms. Smartclip started delivering adverts to connected TVs a year ago and has seen the market grow ever since. Fumagalli said that the emerging technologies will "change the TV landscape forever", but he also bemoaned the fact that many key decision makers in advertising clients are not yet switched on to the digital revolution.
According to Fumagalli, people spend 10 to 15 times more time per unique user viewing videos on connected TV devices compared with the internet. They are turning on, tuning in and, crucially, watching many more ads. But getting advertisers on board remains a constant battle.
Music streaming company We7 draws most of its revenue from advertising, followed subscription tiers and an MP3 store. The four year old start-up now attracts three million unique users every month on the web and mobile, with plans in place to expand into Europe later this year.
Clive Gardiner, senior vice president for digital at We7, said that digital advertising is still largely viewed as "expensive and unproven" by the industry. We7 runs micro-ads before songs, which the vast majority of consumers are prepared to accept, but the biggest challenge is "convincing advertisers of the opportunity".
Gardiner said that even music streaming service Pandora, which has been going in the US for ten years, still faces a constant battle to persuade advertisers to draw funds away from traditional mediums and into digital. Even when advertisers do take the plunge there is a problem with creativity.
He gave the example of technology giant Intel, which recently ran a major online campaign across numerous websites and digital services. We7 suggested playing just the famous Intel jingle before songs as consumers would instantly know what it was advertising. But instead Intel opted for a rather heavy-handed and formal voiceover, which failed to unlock the potential of the medium.
"They felt that they needed to hit consumers over the head with their message," said Gardiner.
"It's not about putting digital noise out there, it's about finding a way to reach this pool of connected and committed users. But it's a volume game in the beginning and convincing people to change is a long job."