I remember some comedienne — apparently Rita Rudner — saying 15 or 20 years ago that she refused to buy anything technological until she got a written guarantee that nobody was going to invent anything else.

Those of us who had bought the White Album on vinyl, cassette and CD by that time could identify.

But I really thought I was safe on this one. I really thought DVDs were going to be a smart buy. I’m really into movies, and when I was a kid I thought that if ever I were as rich as Howard Hughes, I’d own copies of all my favorite films so I could watch them any time I wanted. And I’m not talking about "Ice Station Zebra" here.

But when VHS came out, I confined myself to taping the edited versions they showed on TV. I generally didn’t think buying the movies themselves on tape would be a wise investment, and I was right. That’s why you can pick up the few remaining on store shelves today for a song.

But DVDs were different. They were digital, and ones and zeroes would always be ones and zeroes. If a more advanced format came along, they should be easily transferable with little or no loss of quality, right? You couldn’t say that about the analog versions.

So I started collecting some of my favorites. As a father of five, I’ve never been one to spend much on toys for myself, but I wasn’t shy about making lists of what I liked and did not yet have for my family to consider for Christmas, my birthday and Father’s Day.

So gradually, I built up my my modest film library to where it fills, say, a couple of bookshelves. All primo stuff, too. And whenever possible, I went for the widescreen or letterbox format. Sure, Steve McQueen might look pretty small in "The Great Escape" on my old-fashioned, nearly-square 27-inch — but I was looking to the future.

In fact, I was at Best Buy just last night, exchanging one of the two copies of "Snatch" I got for Christmas for one of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," and while I was there, I couldn’t resist checking out those 50-inch plasma babies and dreaming of the day when they drop down to my workadaddy price range.

Then, this morning, I got around to perusing the Week in Review section in Sunday’s NYT, and ran across this outrage.

For those of you too lazy to follow the link, it says:

DVD movies look just fine on TV. But if you’ve recently bought a
high-definition screen, you may be surprised to discover that current
DVD movies don’t actually play in high definition.

Maybe that’s not too bad. I mean, if my movies look as good as they do now, only wider and bigger, I could live with that and be satisfied. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that just in case you want to start buying DVDs that do play in high-def, you’ve got to make a bet that risks wasting even more money than the suckers who bought Beta in the early 80s.

That, in fact, is the point of the story — that two mutually exclusive formats have been drawn up for high-def DVDs, and it’s not just Sony on one side and the rest of the world on the other. Apple, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox are backing one pony, and Microsoft, Sanyo and Warner Brothers are putting their money on the other.

There is some good news, though: "Both types of players will be able to play conventional DVDs." Just not in high-definition. Well, I can live with that. But still.

22 thoughts on “Dang

  1. Herb

    This has nothing to do with Brad’s piece, but since he is posting trivia, so can I — and express my total disgust with Joseph Person’s ranking Clemson (8-4) ahead of Texas Tech (9-3), based, I would imagine, on a supposed strength of schedule, but I also suspect based on the snobbery prevalent on the East and West Coast, that the SEC, ACC, and Pac-10 are superior to everyone else, especially the Big 12.
    I feel like cancelling my subscription to the State! First of all, please note that Clemson barely scraped by Texas A&M, a team that the Red Raiders clobbered. Secondly, the Big 12 put the lie to the “weakness” claim, as evidenced by bowl performances of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and of course Texas (Texas Tech would have beaten the Tide as well, if the officials hadn’t awarded Alabama a touchdown that they didn’t deserve). That Clemson barely squeaked by a deflated Colorado team with a second-string quarterback was not particularly convincing, either! Pardon my writing this, but I can’t tell that Clemson has improved that much since the 2002 Tangerine bowl.
    So there! I vent my frustration about really important matters!

  2. Capital A

    If all that irks you (Warthen), then I won’t even begin to broach the subjects of Blu-Ray, HD-DVD or 1080p format. It will drive you crazy trying to keep up with the twisting tide.
    I will say this: DO NOT BUY ONE OF THOSE PLASMAS…unless you like little snow dots eventually filling your screen.

  3. bill

    I share your dismay,but don’t care nearly as much about movies as I do music.I recently bought Costello’s greatest hits video collection on DVD and the sound is so superior that I’d like to replace all my CD’s with DVD audio versions.If the record companies were not so greedy they could put the entire Beatle’s catalog on one or two DVD’s.

  4. Lee

    DVDs and CDs were supposed to last 100 years, too. They don’t last as long as vinyl records. (I still have the White Album on vinyl, in pristine condition, thanks to listening to my albums on reel-to-reel and cassette tape.)
    The push to digital TV is another government subversion of the free market for the purpose of auctioning off the bandwidth for (the politicians hope) $10 BILLION. They will blow that faster than Jim Hodges blew the tobacco settlement extortion money.

  5. Capital A

    Lee, read The Question comics much as a kid? I sincerely hope that was playful sarcasm you were spouting and not true alarmist propaganda. Vinyl stinks, period.
    In related news, nothing tops the Talking Heads boxed set (The Brick) for sound (and content, IMHO). I’m hearing things in 5.1 surround sound I’ve never heard from these works when they were on album, cassette or cd.
    As I listen to them, I’m literally asking myself, with childih glee, “What will they think of next?” Maybe a DTS version could top it with an even fuller sound, but that’s personal a preference, if so.

  6. Capital A

    Also, Herb, Texas Tech would get mauled if it were in the SEC. Year in and out, SEC teams beat themselves up while battling each other, only to suffer for it come bowltime. Ahem, Georgia(though I hate the Dawgs)…
    Texas Tech is not an SEC-caliber team. Oregonians were making the same call to arms that you are only to have reality smack them in the face recently. They were perfectly healthy and with no excuses for not proving they were the number 6 ranked team. They promptly folded like the French when they received the national spotlight. I witnessed it right there in high definition.
    For whatever reason, teams west of the mighty Mississip’ are generally weak(er) though, with a few notable exceptions, and we haven’t the time to go into the corruption and bribery that has brought top-level athletes to places like Kansas, UCLA and USC.

  7. Steve Aiken

    Brad: 100 years from now, your great-grandchildren will still be able to listen to the White Album, if your turntable passes down to them in reasonable condition. But today’s DVD’s (whatever format) will be unuseable.

  8. Lee

    I suggest that Capital A find a real stereo system and listen to a quality analog recording before it has been translated to bits and back to analog electrical current driving speakers.

  9. Brad Warthen

    Oh, I wasn’t expecting the DVD itself to last. I assume that within a few years, I’ll put all my DVDs and CDs on a $10 flash drive or something. I can wear it around my neck while I’m driving about in my flying car.

  10. Herb

    AAHHGG! Racial prejudice we have overcome, athletic will take awhile longer. Yes, the SEC is a good conference, but perhaps not as good as some people think it is, as witnessed when outsiders come in and play against it. But I was mainly referring to Clemson and the ACC, in order to irritate my Clemson friends. As the Germans say, those who love one another also needle each other (was sich liebt, neckt sich . . .). Having help put a daughter through USC nursing school, I do root for the Gamecocks, though it will probably never come from the depths of my heart. The eyes of Texas are upon me . . . .

  11. Capital A

    Herb, needling Clemson is A-OK with me. Turn them into a pin cushion and ask me for help of you need it, but come on, Texas Tech? I just can’t abandon all logic in favor of my prejudices. As much as I do like to make orange juice…
    Lee, I’m not sure you understand the current state of technology and where it is headed. I have a turntable (mainly for kitsch factor), and friends and I occasionally gather to share laughs and beers on what we imaginatively call “Album Night.” A turntable and albums do have a certain charm (enhanced by alcohol use), but we are not so inebriated as to think the sound quality tops my surround sound system.
    Please tell me, Lee, that you’re just playing the role of Myztlxptlk here, and that you don’t honestly believe in black wax? Please tell me you’re not dancing madly backwards? If so, you must be some disgruntled, former Papa Jazz employee.

  12. Herb

    Texas Tech 55, Clemson 13. Check it out, 2002 Tangerine bowl. This year, Clemson could barely get by a 3rd rate Big-12 team like A&M, which didn’t even get to a bowl game. And Clemson did beat the Gamecocks, who didn’t have a bad season. So, by implication, the SEC is not all-powerful, but vulnerable like the rest. And as for Oregon, I will point out that it was, again this year, repeating the year before, a 7-4 Big 12 team that shut down the Pac-10 10-1 bragsters. I would reckon that any Big 12 team is capable of shutting down any SEC team at any point in the season. But my main (trivial) point remains: Clemson should not be in the top 25 at all.

  13. Capital A

    Herb, I agree with you on the Clemson points. May Clemson rot is my motto.
    My larger point is that, where the SEC is concerned, the teams of that conference beat each other up all season with power and speed that is, generally, superior to that of other conferences. When bowl season rolls around, the SEC teams are usually playing wounded. Texas Tech did not face defenses or offenses like Carolina did this year, plainly and simply.
    Or, do we compare the NFL representatives of the Big 12 and the SEC? SEC, the S is for Superior.

  14. Herb

    Capital A, If you want to know why I like Texas Tech, then you have to know that I grew up in Lubbock, and started out in college there. But I like it all the more, because Mike Leach has taken an ordinary program, and tried stuff that nobody else will try. Plus, he gets the recruits after Texas, Oklahoma, and A&M have picked over the bunch. Ordinary players, too small for the big boys and the NFL, still make a great team by developing all the potential they have, and then some. I always liked standing up for the little guy (which seems rather ironic in football, I’ll admit). I never thought Tech would go 9-2, back as a kid, when I tried to get into the games for free in my Boy Scout uniform, the record was usually the other way around. By the way, if you want to read up on Mike Leach, then check out the NY Times article, which is unforunately now in the archives. But you would be prejudiced against him,anyway, since he’s a Mormon! http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F10D1FFC3F550C778CDDAB0994DD404482

  15. Capital A

    Yes, I rather enjoyed that BYU bowl loss. Of course, I never did think it was fair teenagers had to play near-30 years-olds.
    I mean, on some of the offensive plays, BYU looked downright Moroni-c. (Ba-dum-dum!)

  16. Lee

    Capital A,
    What makes you think you have any inkling of what technology is, much less where it is headed? Playing an iPod does not make you an expert on digital signal processing.

  17. Capital A

    An IPOD? I’m too busy enjoying my Sony cassette recorder (Bonnie Tyler is making me have a total eclipse of the heart!), driving my Dodge Dart while listening to 8 tracks (When is the latest by Men at Work to be released?), playing games on my Intellivision (Pong rules!), roller skating (We don’t need any stinkin’ blades!)and calling up chicks on my cordless car phone to impress them with my knowledge of technology to worry with an IPOD!
    Was a sarcasm meter ever invented or is that still to come in the future?
    Digital signal processing is one thing. The method of presentation is entirely another. You’re splitting metaphoric pixels for the sake of an attention-seeking argument.
    I suppose Toshiba should halt all production of its coming wave of SEDs because the cathode-ray babies of yesteryear are superior, too?

  18. Lee

    Have you ever listened to a quality analog stereo system, playing quality LP records or 1/4 inch tape recordings of music?

  19. Capital A

    I know the products of the past, for you and a few of my select friends also lost on Planet Reverie, have some romantic draw. I respect your affinity for the past and its genius. I honestly do. I wish all sci-fi films of the present were shot in Technicolor, but the past is gone, and she ain’t ever comin’ back.
    The products you are championing, however, are nowhere near as efficient at presenting and unleashing the technology invented years ago as the products of today are and as the products of tomorrow certainly will be.
    Because of the processing method, I can semi-see your point regarding the tapes, but to claim an LP is on par at any level with even a first generation CD is baseless. I don’t understand why you would even attempt to spread that misinformation.
    You’re not the type who listens to his movies in 2 channel stereo as opposed to Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS, are you?

  20. Lee

    Capital A, you begin by saying some of us were wrong about LPs outlasting CDs and DVDs. Then you shift to a subjective criticism of analog music systems, and fail to provide any experience that you have ever listened to one. Why are you bothering to post?

  21. Capital A

    Actually, you are projecting what you want me to say onto my posts as opposed to what I AM saying. My playlist has been consistent.
    I have, all along, been arguing that current formats have better quality of sound than LPs. Are you referring to the more mundane subject of which format has the longer, literal half-life–as in, if we buried them and dug them up? If so, then you have reduced the argument to ridiculousness. Why even ponder that? Are you referring to which format is tougher or can take a physical beating? Who cares? Buy a lawn frisbee.
    If you’re referring to which has the longer lifespan in the free market, I think that’s apparent. But then, I take the opposite of most of the silliness you’ve posted here as fact while you seemingly don’t.
    You have to be argument/attention seeking; no fully grown, informed adult can honestly believe that LPs top CDs (and definitely not DVD-Audios, HD-DVDs, Blu-Rays, or DATs) for sound quality, convenience, or portability. Maybe even ruggedness, since that seems to be your fetish…
    The musical world is no longer measured in 45s and 78s. You can’t admit the obvious, and I am troubled by those who let the past cloud the present.
    That’s why I’m still posting. Put whatever spin on it you like. You can juke and box all you may. Armed with the truth, I’m long-playing.

  22. Lee

    Tell me how you can convert an analog signal to digital encoding and back to analog, and have the output be superior to the input.
    Back to your original assertion, what makes you think CDs will live up to their promised life of 100 years?

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