In 2005, then-Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates shows off the company's Windows XP Media Center Edition software, which can be used to deliver video, music and photos from a computer to a TV.

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­There's something painfully ironic about sitting on your living room couch, just a few feet away from a beautiful widescreen HDTV, watching a movie on your tiny laptop. Yet this is what most of us do when we download movies or TV shows onto our computers.

The same goes for showing off our latest digital photos to friends. We all huddle around the 15-inch computer display while the TV screen goes unused. And what about that PowerPoint presentation you just gave at work? Wouldn't it have looked 1,000 times better on the wall-mounted plasma display in the conference room?

There are many compelling reasons why we want to connect our computers to our televisions, especially now that HDTVs are so popular. Everything from movies to photos to work presentations were made for the big-screen experience.

The first personal computers used TVs for monitors, but computer graphics technology quickly outpaced the image quality on standard-definition TVs (SDTVs). The typical modern computer monitor has the ability to display images at a much higher resolution than a regular TV. A computer monitor can display more individual pixels than an SDTV.

Even today, hooking a computer to an SDTV only makes sense if you want to use your computer as a DVD player. If you try to use an SDTV as a monitor, you'll have a hard time getting your full desktop to fit on the screen.

But with the advent of high-resolution, high-definition TVs like flat-panel LCDs, plasma, LCoS, and DLP displays, televisions now make excellent computer monitors. In fact, that's what the manufacturers of PC-based media centers are trying to achieve. The tricky part is figuring out exactly which TVs work with which computers and how to connect them all together.

Keep reading to learn more about bringing your small-screen life to the big leagues.