This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.
There was an episode of Star Trek (according to Google, it was Episode 43, "Bread & Circuses) in which there was a laugh-track machine, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Some technician was operating it to make a crowd cheer appropriately for a taped gladiatorial match, or some such thing. Which is, I guess, not noteworthy enough for the main article, but...
I reckon there should be two articles here- one for laugh track, one for canned laughter. Many British comedies use geniune laughs from a studio audience even nowadays, proven by, amongst other things, the actors pausing to wait for the laughs to subside, or jokes the audience catches late or misses entirely (you won't see that last in your four-walls USA sitcom).
HeartBurn Kid: Studio audiences are still the norm in the US, as well. I was in a few when I lived in Hollywood (about 5 or 6 years ago). Sometimes they'll have signs to cue the audience to applaud, or laugh, or what have you, but sometimes, they'll just talk to the audience beforehand and tell you to "laugh when you hear a joke".
"The term "Laugh Track" is often misapplied to shows that are filmed and later screened to an audience, whose responses are then recorded."
- Are we sure this is correct? I'm fairly knowledgeable about sound mixing and generally a "track" refers to a layer of any type of audio. So therefore "laugh track" should refer to any laughter placed in the audio mix of a show regardless of its source. The term "canned laughter" refers exclusively to a mechanically generated laughter track and would not be an appropriate term to apply to an audience reaction recorded either 'live' or by showing it to them after taping and recording their reactions.
Noaqiyeum: I don't know if Big Bang Theory goes here or under Studio Audience, but either way it's the main reason I don't watch it. Because apparently their target audience is smart enough to get references to H. superior but too dumb to respond at the right times without prompting.