You knew it was coming, but you couldn't wait, could you? Now you're stuck with an HD-DVD player that has become obsolete within less than a year of purchase, as well as a shelf sagging under buyer's remorse, instead the weight of all those movies. Sony must be pleased: their format has finally won. With all the major retailers exclusively carrying Blu-ray discs, and the movie studios following suit, the future looks blue for Toshiba and its HD-DVD format. In fact, Toshiba has announced that it would cease production of HD-DVD players entirely. Blu-ray has become the de rigeur sexy upgrade from DVD (or VHS, if you've spent the first part of this century on some desert island). And that's the thing: there will always be format wars, winners, upgrades, disappointments, triumphs, technology. No matter how much the 21st century is moving towards doing everything digitally and downloading your music and movies as zeros and ones from some anonymous entertainment server, people still love gadgets. You cannot wrap a download and put it under the Christmas tree. Well, you can probably wrap a download gift card, but that's just not the same; it's the gift that shows you cared enough to do the very least... And for the afficionados, the quality of downloads is still miles behind. Audiophiles wouldn't dream of polluting their ears with 128kbps MP3s, exclaiming, "There are so many gaps, the loss of information from the sound is a crime. I'd rather listen to something authentic." And then return to their scratchy 78s, implausibly. Personally, I love new technology, the fruit of format wars. I love my collection of Super Audio CDs, for example, another Sony brainchild that makes DVD-Audio sound like 8-track tape. Although, the SACD format has been slightly less well supported than I'd like it to be. History repeats itself.
19 March 2008
Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?
On Saturday afternoons in the summers of the 1980s, we'd excitedly enter the Dial-A-Movie, still dripping pool water from our swimsuits. Here was a whole world of choice, a rental store with seemingly every movie ever made displayed on its shelves. What to choose, what to choose. Arguments would ensue - the youngest of the bunch would want to get Pinocchio (again) and the older kids wouldn't want to rent things from the Disney shelf at all, or anything else that's animated, for that matter. While the rest of the gang was debating the merits of Summer School versus Spaceballs, I would notice the poor guy standing in front of the Betamax shelf. That's right - just the one shelf, with its meagre selection of titles. I would wonder why they weren't afforded the same cinematic cornucopia as we VHS people. Back then, videotape was videotape to me. Why would they choose a Betamax tape? Why not simply take a VHS tape home? I had no idea that the machines they had at home would be different, that the tape wouldn't fit. With no concept of incompatibility issues, I was therefore even more unaware of the vicious format war between Sony's slightly superior Betamax and JVC's almost ubiquitous Video Home System. Today, I'm more aware of these things. Primarily because history repeats itself.