"If you really look into the history of our technological development, you'll notice that the force driving us forward all this time wasn't our need to better ourselves or seek out truth in all its forms, but rather our desire to see naked people touch each other's junk."
Supposedly, the first group of content providers to colonize a new medium once it becomes commercially viable will almost always be the producers of adult-oriented material — that is, porn.
They will, of course, attempt to maximize their profits by flooding their customers with product. This, in turn, will drive up demand, pushing the new medium into the mass market, where economies of scale come into play and make it affordable for increasing numbers of consumers. As more consumers can afford the medium, more non-adult content becomes available, until finally the adult material becomes a niche rather than the primary content available. (But not before the media and Moral Guardians get ahold of it and create a moral panic about all that "smut".)
This belief does appear to be promoted by the adult industry itself with the result that a significant number of claims don't hold up to scrutiny.
For the scientifically inclined, this trope may be seen as the technological equivalent of the biological concept known as "Succession", which - in its most basic form - goes like so:
A new but hostile land surface is created (new medium), deterring all but the hardiest forms of life - the pioneer species (site-makers) - with the most basic needs (such as profit) to exploit the only available resources (in this case, desperation). As a result of this, a community develops (the site-makers, who are the producers/pioneers, and the consumers who feed on the efforts of the producers).
The attempted colonisation of the pioneers erodes the hostile elements of the environment (new medium), making it friendlier. New organisms (producers) to move in - seeing the potential of the changed environment [new medium] - and establish themselves, which would not have been able to survive before the first pioneers had altered the environment [new medium]. New producers also bring new consumers and the face of the resultant community changes.
Like the pioneers, these new organisms alter the already changed environment [new medium] by their very presence, making it even friendlier and attracting even more new organisms with even greater needs that previous versions of the environment would not be able to support. With regards to new media, the alteration of the environment relates to pushing the new medium's boundaries. A positive feedback loop is hence set up, improving the "new medium" in the aforementioned way over and over. (the internet is currently in this stage, as a medium)
Eventually, the medium reaches its developmental limit, forming its "climax community." This is the point at which the new medium and its associated community will no longer develop due to the fact that said medium's boundaries have been pushed as far as possible. As such, it can no longer support any more organisms than it already is (radio is at this stage).
Hentai. An actual strange case, hentai actually precedes the anime forms most Westerners are familiar with; the Rule of First Adopters applies to anime in microcosm as it's applied to individual series, with often the first adaptations of successful anime or manga series being pornographic "retellings." Hentai even subverts this trope, as popular hentai anime, manga, or video game series are then turned into more "Moral Guardian-friendly" adaptations.
More importantly, the anime/manga ecosphere gets quite a bit of talent from the doujinshisphere, which is very often populated with hentai doujinshi's of popular anime/manga.
More than one old art master dabbled in depicting the favorite bedtime activity of all. Along with The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife mentioned above, there's an etching of Rembrandt van Rijn depicting a couple mid-coitus, and Leonardo Da Vinci made a sketch of the act in cross-section as part of his anatomical drawings.
The first comic books were repacked newspaper funny pages. The first comic books with original content were actually the (illegal) Tijuana Bibles, as this (NSFW) website illustrates; most of the earliest ones from The Twenties were basically the Rule 34 of the day, featuring newspaper comic characters (or in some cases, real people.) It wasn't until The Thirties that original comics were published in the mainstream. The Tijuana Bible held on until The Sixties.
Related, from the 1950s to the 1970s Brazil saw the "catechisms" (yes, another "hiding sex with religious names"!) of Carlos Zéfiro (catalogued here - as NSFW as the above).
Motion pictures seemed ready to follow the pattern until Moral Guardians of the period complained, leading to the establishment of the Hays Code. Up to that point, though, early cinema was far more daring that most people might believe. For example, few remember that the glamorous star of the 1930s and 1940s, Hedy Lamarr, initially became famous for doing topless and nude scenes in the 1933 Czech film Ecstasy.
Said film is often mistakenly believed to be the first example of female nudity in mainstream cinema. However, the earliest credited example of this is the 1915 film Inspiration. See this page for background.
Eugène Pirou made a short film in which a woman performs a striptease in 1896.
Pioneering filmmaker Georges Mèliès created a short film about a woman taking a bath in 1897.
During Weimar Germany, Berlin had an extremely thriving porn industry.
And that's all just "mainstream" film. So-called stag films had been around since the turn of the twentieth century and some of them are pretty hardcore even by today's standards.
The rise of home videotape machines has often been attributed to the availability of porn. Those wanting to watch it previously had to go to skeevy porno theaters, where everyone around them was doing exactly what you'd think people would be doing in a porno theater and the floors were very sticky, plus they ran the risk of being seen going into or coming out of the theater. Watching in private has got all sorts of obvious advantages that everyone jumped at. The porno theater industry keeled over and died.
Notably, the factor believed to have settled the format war between Betamax and VHS was that Sony refused to license Betamax to pornographers. Or, at the very least, licensed it too late to counter the foothold VHS had on the fledgling industry. Read more about it here.
History almost repeated itself in the high-definition DVD war between Sony's Blu-Ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD. When reports indicated Sony was going to ban porn on Blu-Ray too, the industry reaction was to predict Sony's loss. Sony eventually agreed to license Blu-Ray for porn, even if it wouldn't advertise that fact much. It ended up winning the format war this time.
Unlike with Betamax, Sony isn't the sole owner of Blu-Ray and instead is one of many partners in the Blu-Ray Disc Association. Sony could not actually ban Blu-Ray pornography, but in the early, critical days, they held a de facto monopoly on Blu-Ray manufacturing (Being the first to have large-scale production facilities), and did not peddle their services to the adult media industry
Few people remember it these days, but the same dynamic played out in the LaserDisc vs. CED VideoDisc battle in the early 1980s as well. RCA maintained a tight grip on CED manufacturing (there were only 2 plants in the world capable of making CED discs), and a handful of softcore, barely-above-"R"-rated Playboy Video Centerfold discs were as far as they were willing to go into that territory. Laserdiscs, on the other hand... (Guess which format survived. Go on, guess.) Although only a niche market in the the US, Europe, and Australia; laserdiscs were the dominant video medium in Japan, Hong Kong, and affluent areas of southeast Asia such as Singapore, until the new millenium.
Though the RCA CED system's failure is probably more due to the fact that by the time it came out, video cassette recorders were already established.
It's official: 3D porno. Anybody who thinks that the 3-D Movie is just a passing fad may now leave the room.
This trope is older than photography. When the printing press made book publishing commercially viable, guess what the two most popular types of books were? Religious tracts, and pornographic stories.
And the line between the two isn't always quite clear. There's eroticism in The Bible — the Song of Solomon, while highly symbolic, is also quite erotic.
The bare texts of all major religions actually celebrate sex in certain passages but they also mandate specific contexts for it (married consenting couples being the most prevalent). Most other restrictions were added by interpreters and philosophers trying to hammer out exactly what was and wasn't permissible.
Appears in-universe in Magicnet—the titular Internet replacement was built off a forum for occultists, but the moment they realized how convincingly it could simulate reality, they immediately started creating virtual simulations of boyfriends and girlfriends. The system administrator turns out to have an entire harem of nonexistent women at his beck and call.
Appears in-universe in the Arthur C. Clarke short story "Patent Pending" (collected in Tales From The White Hart). A young French (but of course!) scientist invents VCR for the brain. He quickly comes to the obvious application. And the story gets more interesting from there....
Live Action TV
Sadly, this was not the case with TV in The Fifties. note Damn you Moral Guardians! The high-definition train also is getting a delayed reception from the porn industry (yes, even them), mostly because they're busy making scads upon scads of money with the Internet — but also because many porn stars are afraid of previously-obscured imperfections and flaws becoming not just visible but spread across monster TV screens in ultra-high resolution. note In fact, it's pretty much eliminated a once-standard shot, the cowboy. Imitating the point of view of a man who is having sex with the woman on top with better video cameras mean those breast implant scars are really visible from that angle. It seems television will always be the exception to the rule.
Parodied in Coupling in which, after making a brave attempt at rationalizing his possession of a movie called "Lesbian Spank Inferno" with in-depth critical and symbolic analysis to the other members of a dinner party after his female friends bring it up to embarrass him, Steve cracks and engages in a lengthy and not-unconvincing rant in which he makes the case that the entire history of human artistic and technological development has been motivated solely so that men could get a better look at women's bottoms.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seemed to be the only Star Trek series to realise that the only thing most people would use a holodeck for would be having sex. Quark's was essentially a holo-brothel, although the Federation characters were just a bit too squeaky clean to ever use it for that (that we saw). You might wonder how anyone would ever get anything done in the 24th Century with the ability to create fully functional, three-dimensional interactive characters that have no free will whatsoever.
Star Trek: The Next Generation implied that use with Barclay and his holo-addiction and Geordi and that female engineer. In both cases the real people were very angry when they saw how their holographic selves were being used.
Star Trek: Voyager actually featured Tom Paris simulating an attractive female Vulcan for the sole purpose of sex, but only because another Vulcan (Tuvok) on the ship was going through pon farr (and with Tuvok's permission, said female was modelled on Tuvok's own wife, at the time still several decades of direct uninterrupted travel away).
Dollhouse took this to a new extreme: the technology that will reprogram humanity into a horde of mindless engines of pure violence and bring about the apocalypse? Let alone allow the technology that would allow the villains behind said apocalypse to gain immortality via erasing innocent peoples' minds and over-writing them with their own mind? It came from technology that allowed for prostitutes/escorts to be programmed into personalized sex puppets.
Which itself seems like a Shout Out to Molly Millions, the best-known character of William Gibson. In Neuromancer the use of sex puppets is the only thing such technology is used for.
Referenced in 30 Rock, where Tracy Jordan decids to combine two things he loves; porn and videogames. One of the guys in the writing staff tells him it's impossible because of the Uncanny Valley, and cites that all the best have tried, including the Japanese.
Against all the odds Tracy actually succeeds in creating his porn video game.
Frank: I played it for a few hours, it's okay.
Tracy: Frank, you've been in your office for three months!
Frank: (Cut back to reveal he now sports long hair and a beard) WHAT?!
Tracy: Yes! I'm gonna be a millionaire!
In one of the Babylon 5 movies (probably The River of Souls), a sketchy businessman runs a holo-brothel in Down Below, using holograms and special suits to simulate touch. It is never stated how often the suits are cleaned, but they are glitchy enough to occasionally electrocute the wearer.
New Media, technology
On the flip side, while porn colonized the World Wide Web at a rate just under the speed of light, the economies of the digital world suggest that it's never going to be relegated to a "niche" market there.
As part of that colonization, porn led the way (or was right there on the front lines) in technical innovations such as streaming video, online commerce and secure purchasing, site password protection and verification, CAPTCHAs and of course the spread of broadband.
Porn broadband traffic wasn't overtaken by social networking traffic until 2011, making porn the biggest thing on the 'net for more than ten years. Summed up rather nicely by the Oatmeal◊.
One of the early load tests of the original Bittorrent client was a large (*ahem*) "sample video" file.
Invoked by the IPv6 Experiment. Now over, it was an attempt to get people to switch from version four of the internet protocol to version six, by enticing them with free porn only available to those with IPv6.
Similarly, the publisher of Playboy Brazil launched an e-reader (which works on PCs besides tablets). The launch promotion (earn for free some free magazines - which include both that and another lad magazine - and e-books), borderline example. Offering the July 2012 Playboy for free, head-on example.
When digital image compression algorithms were being researched in the early 70s, they would most probably be tested on "Lenna", the informally default test image that happened to be scanned from the November 1972 Playboy centerfold.
This particular image is cropped to a head-and-shoulder shot, with an arguably suggestive expression but no display of naughty bits.
(As summed up here, internet porn originated many of the technologies of the web (streaming video, online payment, broadband)... and a few plagues such as spam, malware and PC hijacking.
Averted with Google Glass. A porn studio called MiKandi planned on creating porn that would be both filmed and viewed through Google Glass, perfectly simulating the POV of a man having sex, but Google shot them down and preemptively banned all porn apps from the App Store.
Almost as soon as photography stopped being a curiosity, nude photos began to circulate. And (allegedly) within a week of its patenting, a camera was used to take a picture of a woman performing an act that is still illegal in most states. And some authorities believe that the ability for the average person to take nude photos without having to send them to a processing lab was not an inconsequential factor in the initial success of the Polaroid Land Camera.
Many of the first advertisements for digital cameras slyly hinted — or all but said — that now consumers could make their own porn without worrying about sending it off for processing. See item number four (and its accompanying images) in the Cracked.com article mentioned above.
It's believed a similar dynamic was at work with the quick adoption of camera phones. Not long after their introduction, "sexting" — sending nude pics to friends (specifically when done by teenagers) — became the latest moral panicdu jour.
There's actually a Real Life example that subverts this trope — yes, Barbie dolls; Ruth Handler, Barbie's inventor, was supposedly inspired by a similar doll she saw in West Germany, which in turn was supposedly inspired by very anatomically-correct dolls given to German submariners during WWII to discourage homosexuality.
There's a reason why those anatomically correct dolls are called "Dutch wives".
Vibrators were also among the first electrical gadgets.
Perhaps not surprisingly, in the virtual reality game/Wide Open SandboxSecond Life, some of the first animations made were for adult acts, most clothing for females can be described as "club wear" at best. Virtual strip bars and whorehouses were also among the first virtual businesses created.
It's not too uncommon of an occurrence for people to take pictures of their genitals as their first photo on the Game Boy Camera, or on it's Spiritual Successor in the DSi. With the 3DS on the market now (with its novel and unique 3D camera), people will ensure that it fits this trope.
Minecraft and its gigantic penis monuments in Creative mode.
While the early computer game industry had relatively few sex related games, the potential was recognized by just about everyone from the start, and one text-based title - Softporn Adventure by Sierra Games - was a notable breakout title. Parts of Softporn eventually became the basis of the hugely successful Leisure Suit Larry series. A number of video strip poker games had some modest success, as well.
It wasn't "relatively few" in Japan, where cheaply produced H-Games helped popularize the PC 88 and later the PC 98.
The early video game industry had even less room for sex, which is not surprising given the perceived target audience. This was especially true on the consoles, where the hardware was hardly up to the task, and the market severely restricted by high entry costs and the watchful eyes of the Moral Guardians. Nonetheless, at least one company released a few such titles, most infamous of which being Custer's Revenge.
A subversion in that the most famous prehistoric art in the world, which consists of rock carvings of big-breasted naked women, were evidently worshiped for hopes of fertility, for children, crops and whatnot rather than use as sex toys or personal aids. A straight example are paleolithic cave paintings, which could be rather raunchy.
Averted by the commercial space travel industry. Despite a $1,000,000 offer, Virgin Galactic turned down a porn studio that wanted to rent one of their ships for the purpose of filming the world's first zero-G sex. The head of the company was said to have mentioned that it would have made the company's name ridiculous.