I must confess to my Foolish friends that I'm experiencing something of a time warp. Earlier in this decade, as a media analyst with primary responsibility for covering such major cable operators as Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), what now is Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and Cablevision (NYSE:CVC), I also monitored several smaller interactive technology companies that served the cable multisystems operators. By doing so, I was able to attain some sense of the pace with which new functionalities might be deployed by the cable operators.

Now, as I look over the quarterly results for OpenTV (NASDAQ:OPTV), primarily a provider of middleware for television set-top boxes, I'm reminded of my earlier coverage of Liberate Technologies, itself a once high-flying middleware company. (The middleware layer in a set-top box essentially permits the operating system to communicate with various interactive functionalities.) In its heyday, Liberate traded as high as $140 per share. It now inhabits that netherworld between a nickel and 6 cents.

Liberate had a fine pedigree, including having been sired by Larry Ellison's Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), but its rise and fall indicate the difficult world it continues to inhabit -- sort of -- along with OpenTV. The latter also has been around for a number of years, once trading as high as $245 a share, long before its Friday close at $2.35, which obviously was above the $0.70 a share it reached in the interim. (And newspaper company shareholders think they have reason to be disgruntled.)

OpenTV's stock-in-trade is now middleware, although it also plays in the digital recorder world, along with TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO), and is involved in various other interactive television products and services. Last week, it reported a first-quarter loss of $3.1 million, or $0.02 per share, the same as last year, despite a 6% increase in this year's revenue to $26.4 million. 

I suppose the question on the minds of Fools everywhere is whether to buy OpenTV by the bucketful, with an idea that it might someday approximate its previous price levels. I think not. Interactive companies clearly have a place in the media world, but from an investment perspective, they've had their fling.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.