Friday, August 10, 2007

Early Adoption


When we visited the Children's Museum in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, we looked through a large display they had on Star Wars collectibles. As a child of the seventies, this is something not to be missed! While looking through the displays, I laughed as I saw an old VideoDisc cartridge. If you do not know me and have not figured out by now, I am king geek. I love technology. My idea of a gift is either something I can cook with or something that runs on electricity. So, the sighting of this old video format really took me back. I remember in junior high the old RCA players. You would push the sleeve into the player and the disc would remain in the player. After side one was finished, you would put the sleeve back in to flip the disc over and finish your movie.


Since I was a child of the seventies, I was also a teenager of the eighties and thus, a participant of the videotape format wars. I guess I developed some of my geek status from my Dad. Except for the parts that allow my Dad to fix his own computer problems apparently (that's another story). Anyways, we were early adopters of a VCR...in BETA. Yes, when all of my friends families got VCR's, they got VHS. Not us...nope. It was almost if as a family, we shared talking points to prove that BETA was the superior format. The picture quality is better! Our push button TV channel selectors react quicker! Our corded pause button remote is four feet longer than a VHS machine's corded remote! Unfortunately, as we visited our local video store in Northern Virgina, where we lived at the time, it became quite obvious that as the VideoDisc and BETA sections got smaller, VHS was going to win out. At some point, we ended up caving into defeat and purchased a VHS VCR. The sad thing is, Mom & Dad still have a boatload of BETA tapes and a working BETA VCR.


Well, as technology changed, LaserDiscs made a comeback. By this time in my life, I was headlong into movies and LaserDiscs brought something that VHS did not: widescreen, original aspect ratio format. You could actually see a movie the way it was meant to be seen - in glorious analog video and stereo sound quality! This time, I felt we were on the cusp. Sure, you still had to get up and flip the disc half way through the movie, but that picture on our old analog television was glorious. As progress rolled on, I was lucky enough one Christmas to get a LaserDisc player that flipped sides all by itself. In reality, it was the laser that changed sides, the disc remained the same and it took several minutes...but I didn't have to get up! What next portable computers that fit in your lap?

By this time, I was in college at Purdue. I was blessed to find a movie rental store that catered to moviephiles and rented LaserDics. Besides owning StarWars and of course, the Naked Gun films, I was able to rent a wide variety of movies and watch them like never before seen on VHS. I was set.

Then one day came a little thing called a DVD. My Dad, once again determined to be on the right side of technology, went out and bought a DVD player at Circuit City that played a disc called a DivX. Ever heard of a DivX DVD player (The player, not the codec)? Probably not, it failed. The idea was that you buy a disc for cheap and after watching it five times, you throw it away...or something like that. The quality was nice, except if memory serves me right, they were all pan and scan. Eventually we got a "proper" DVD player and life was good once again.

Truth be told, I still have my LaserDisc player and only disconnected it once Star Wars was released on DVD. Until the release of the non-special editions, I was glad to know that I still had the version of Star Wars where Han shoots first.

So here we are in 2006 and there is talk of High Definition DVD. Once again, a format war looms. I have followed this battle for some time and feel that since Sony's PS3 includes a Blu-Ray drive, there is no way they can lose. So far, that appears to be happening. We purchased a PS3 last Christmas and have been periodically buying Blu-Ray discs, hoping they do not go the way of BETA. The release of 300 last week and the start of Blockbuster to rent Blu-Ray in stores shows that Blu-Ray is picking up steam. Needless to say, the Blu-Ray experience takes me back to my first days of watching a LaserDisc after watching years of videotape. We may just have a winner this time. Oh, I almost forgot. The picture quality? Incredible! The sound...great, but I have yet to experience true HDMI audio because of something I will leave to another post.


Funny enough, Zoe was lamenting over the lack of Blu-Ray selection at Blockbuster last week. I reminded her back to when we first had our DVD player and no one rented DVD's because they only had VHS. Now look at the rental stores. I then thought back to my LaserDisc rental days and my BETA rental days. As formats change and technology progresses, I will always be there. It is the geek code. All I can say is that I just hope they are no BETA missteps in my future. No excuses Dad on just how good the picture is!

9 comments:

keithk said...

Just as I was ready to buy a PS3 for the BluRay capabilities, I am now cautioned by your family's previous experiences in selecting the future of video technology!

anne said...

i have fond memories of the beta, though i don't remember any of what you talked about prior to that, nor do i recall dad's dvd experiences.

Jayme said...

Dude, posting star wars stuff? How lame. I will never visit your page again!

Jayme said...

Oh and don't rule out HD DVD just yet. The X box 360 HD DVD drive was just dropped to $179 and it has given a large boost to the HD DVD camp. It also upconverts standard DVD's to near high def resolution. I was caught in a similar format war when DVD audio and SACD came out. Solution? bought a universal player.

ewtotel said...

I'm with you, USAKeith... from the sounds of this blog, one might be best served to check which technology Mike is buying, and then do the opposite!

Mike said...

Keith & Eric - LOL, you may be on to something!

Jayme - I forgot you were in the Xbox 360 camp! I agree the price drop is nice, but when you still add that to the price of the console, it is right up there with the PS3. At least with Xbox, if HD-DVD loses out, Microsoft can hopefully produce a BluRay external drive like they rumored awhile back.

Did you have success with your universal player?

Jayme said...

Yeah, the universal player is great. It is a pioneer elite DV 47A. This thing will play pop tart if it would fit in the tray, very versitile. For those of you not familiar with DVD-A or SACD, it is an audiophile's dream. 5.1 channel surround and over twice the Khz of regular CD sound. I have a disc of Beethoven's ninth that is so clear, you can hear the conductor turning pages of sheet music. No joke. The experience of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON on SACD? Can't even begin to explain....

dustin said...

I decided to move my Star Wars collection from Laser Disc to DVD when my son begged to watch my LD version last year. Maybe the memories were better, but as good as LD was versus VHS 15 years ago, the transfer of the original Trilogy ain't too good. But it *is* nice to see Han shoot first...

And we have our old Beta in a closet too. My dad was an electronics buyer and went with that because of the better quality, then asked me to rank to new game systems in 1986, and pick which was better - Sega or Nintendo. I picked Nintendo (and kept the sample), he bought Sega. Guess who's #1 now?

Mike said...

Jayme - I believe the PS3 plays both formats, although I have neither to try on it. I know I bought the new Rush album as a MVI DVD, but that is just a regular DVD with the songs in 5.1.

Dustin -

I remember jonesing so bad for the special editions on LD before they came out on DVD, I almost bought them on LD.

Sega...I almost forgot about that! Good choice with the Nintendo.