format wars

Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks just announced that they will support only HD DVD format and dump Blu-ray. Many insiders had thought Blu-ray (with backing from PS3 and Fox) was winning the format war until this announcement. Both will probably be rendered obsolete by online downloading anyway. Remind anyone of that VHS vs Beta war of the 80's?

Betamax was actually technically superior but lost the war because of marketing, licensing issues and tape length. While its quality was inferior, VHS marketed its longer tape lengths (3hrs vs Beta's 1hr) as the premier advantage in recording TV programs and movies. The VHS format was cheaper to manufacture and its backers moved faster to secure licenses and released more movies to capitalize on the rental tape boom. Beta moved too slowly on these fronts and conceded defeat in the late 80's.

So our household was left with piles of useless Beta tapes filled with sporting events, concerts, music videos and movies taped off of SuperTV (remember that bootleg form of cable TV?). Maybe experiences with Beta and SuperTV left my dad gunshy with trying new technology. When I helped him buy a new home computer a couple years ago, I suggested an iMac. But he was fearful that Macs would be obsolete and were only good for artists and teachers. This was in the middle of the iPod boom and Mac resurgence. It was '05 not '95. I relented and got him a serviceable PC ... at least I finally got him to use a digital camera last christmas!

I love seeing old and obsolete electronics and gadgets. Last year while cleaning out the house, I found the first cellphone that I ever used. So ancient and so cool! I would love to see an actual exhibit of old cellphones, VHS/Betamax players (top loading decks were charming), game systems, 8-track players etc. I've wasted way too much time on the internet looking up old technology like this.


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