Some people may call me nostalgic, or old-fashioned, or just not really with it because I don’t have the latest, greatest, flashiest, most out-of-this-world audio/video setup………
…..and I’m okay with that. No, really………I am okay with it. There is a reason.
I have learned that every so often, a new format comes out for audio or video that just “has to be owned and seen or heard to be believed”, and that may be true to a certain extent, but not every format ever survives for as long as we may think, and then people discard it for the next new, shiny thing that sucks their wallets and bank accounts dry. Some formats do survive for quite some time before being called old and obsolete. Some formats make a comeback (yes……vinyl is not dead yet!). Some formats still endure for quite some time (I am looking at you, compact discs). All of this comes down to one simple thing – choice.
We choose to move on to the next format either out of vanity, convenience, or sometimes it may be necessity because what you want is not available in your favorite vintage format. For example, good luck on getting a copy of “San Andreas” on VHS – that’s just not going to happen. The oldest thing you’ll find that on is DVD. Wow………remember when that was new? Now we see Blu-ray discs in the $5 bin at your local Walmart where the DVD’s used to be. Didn’t seem to take very long, now that we’re in this age of digital downloading and streaming. That seems to be the latest trend – digital downloading and streaming.
I seem to have a bit of a problem with the whole downloading and streaming thing. What happens if it’s removed, deleted, or just…..no longer available? I know these days that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s happened – not necessarily in movies or TV shows, but in some video games, it certainly has happened, despite companies telling you that “Oh, that’ll never happen.” Yes…..yes it does. I guess I just prefer my entertainment in a physical, defined form – not some amorpheous digital being that may or may not be there the next time I turn my device on. If I choose to convert it to a digital form, that is my choice, as I still have the physical form should anything go wrong.
I still remember some of the formats that used to be in service, some shorter than others. Such as………
Betamax Tapes – This one was one of the short-lived battles in formats between this and VHS. Beta tapes were smaller, and thus being smaller, they thought instantly meant better. Well………VHS won out that war, and the Betamax tapes faded into obscurity. Some nostalgics still have their Beta players and a collection of tapes to play on it, but sadly……..no new titles coming out for it.
VideoDiscs / Players – This one was a bit more of a letdown on many fronts. The videodiscs came in a large, stiff jacket that you had to slide into the player, and then extricate the sleeve when ready to play. The rub on this one was…….the discs played like records, using a needle to read the surface, and as such, were very prone to one thing all records are…….skipping. There was no saving a videodisc by placing a penny on the needle like you could with a record. Once it started skipping, it was the long, downward spiral to the trash heap. Needless to say, that was one format I did not miss when it left the scene .
LaserDiscs/Players – These were definitely better than VideoDiscs for one huge reason – they read like CD’s – with a laser beam, so as such, as long as the surface wasn’t damaged, you’d have far better luck with playing your disc – just like a CD. They were big, gaudy, shiny discs of video goodness. I still have one of these, myself, as I love the original Star Wars (before it got altered), and this was the first digital version that came out. I just haven’t the heart to part with it yet. It’s just very, very cool, and you can still get discs on the secondary markets readily enough for it.
8mm cassettes – These poor souls lost out to the VHS-C format because VHS-C was more widely used in camcorders, although there were some titles that actually came out on pre-recorded 8mm tapes if you can believe that (I still remember once seeing “Beverly Hills Cop” in a Target store on 8mm). They even made full-size players for these tapes so you can play them without an adapter. Most people also opted for VHS-C because you could just get an adapter and just plop it into your VHS player.
MiniDiscs – I tend to think of this one as a novelty over anything else. It was a small CD packaged in a hard case, making it easier to carry about and slap into a MiniDisc player. Problem was, just about everyone else was using regular CD’s in those days, and it was just too much of an uphill battle for the MiniDisc to make any real impact. It lost out pretty quickly.
Does this mean you should toss our your collection of video or audio goodness just because the format is no longer widely used? Oh heck no! By all means, enjoy your VHS tapes, LaserDiscs and the like. As long as your players don’t wear out and your tapes don’t get ate by your machines, enjoy them for as long as you can. Of course, the only thing that digital has over physical media is that it doesn’t degrade over time – it stays constant as long as it’s not corrupted or erased. There were times I even had music recorded on reel-to-reel decks. It may not be a convenient format, but as any audiophile will tell you……..those reels look really cool spinning around as your music is playing. Some stuff you can’t even get in a newer format because it’s been deemed not worth selling anymore, or just wasn’t popular enough, so if you can find it in any format, you considered yourself lucky. Perhaps that is why there is so much conversion software out there these days – to preserve the obscure stuff that you just can’t get easily…….that is a treasure hunt right there, kids.
Whether you prefer new formats or old ones – physical or digital – there is no right or wrong choice. It all comes down to preference of how you like to enjoy your favorite media. Above all else………just enjoy it.