Monday, December 1, 2008

Unplanned Obsolescence

Or: How We’re All Technology’s Bitches.

Remember that scene near the beginning in Back To the Future II, when Marty and Doc Brown park in the alley? Remember all those shrink-wrapped laserdiscs waiting to be hauled away with the rest of the garbage? Well ...

For those of you who are of too tender years to even know what the word "laserdisc" means, let me first curse you enthusiastically for being so young, and then tell you that laserdiscs are to DVDs what LP record albums were to CDs -- big, ungainly discs, each one containing a movie. (And if you don’t know what LPs are -- or even, in this brave new world of iTunes, what CDs are, I give up. Ask your mother. Or your grandmother.) Being of the old-fashioned analogue, as opposed to digital, technology, they could only squeeze about an hour’s worth of movie on a side, so, unless you owned a laserdisc player fancy enough that the laser would automatically circumnavigate the disc to play Side 2, you had to get up halfway through your movie and manually flip the disc over. Positively antediluvian, I know, but hey, at least we got some exercise.

Why have them? Well, because they provided a better picture by far than did VHS, which was the only other option Back Then. Unless you were willing to spend the GDP of a small emirate on line doublers and suchlike, VHS looked like animated mud on the big-screen TVs of the time. Laserdiscs provided a better picture, and they offered another option not to be found on the plebian tapes: Widescreen. Plus some of them featured something totally new: a separate audio track on which film critics and auteurs commented on the movies while you watched them. Clearly, laserdiscs were the only medium of choice for the serious cineáste.

And then DVDs came along and blew ‘em out of the water.

I had a lot of laserdiscs. Not sure exactly how many, but it was over 400 for sure. All of which I have been, over the past four years, laboriously dubbing onto recordable DVDs. The project got stalled last year when my player finally gave up the ghost, but recently I found a refurbished Pioneer DVL-909 on eBay for a price too good to pass up. (Note to self: Stay off eBay!) I figure that I only have to dub fifteen or so movies to make it pay for itself.

Except, of course, for the ones that I have to buy again because of all the new bells and whistles.

Sigh. I’m resigned to being a running dog lackey of the Technolords. I just wish they weren’t quite so smugly certain that eventually I’ll succumb to Blu-Ray and it'll start all over again ...

1 comment:

Q Hudspeth said...

We must assimilate!