HD DVD: A Cautionary Tale

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To those of you who can’t accept the news that HD DVD is gone I recount to you the tale of one of my father’s co-workers, Don, who was a die-hard Betamax user.

This was back in 1989 or so when VHS pretty much ruled the day. Consumers were already buying VHS camcorders and I believe we already had a VCR by then, brought home with great fanfare by my parents and relegated to the TV nook where only my sister and I used it. This, kids, was long before CE devices were sexy and powerful and required a Doctorate in Physics to install. You got the VCR, ran it between your TV and cable box, and watched as it blinked “12:00″ incessantly.

My father worked for the DoD in Columbus and Don was a Vietnam vet who came back and ended up working in the DoD warehouses sorting parts and putting together shipments. He was a very interesting guy. After the war he studied Karate in Japan and knew a lot about warfare and strategy but post-traumatic shock got the best of him and he remained a bachelor until he died. My dad told me he had lots of Ninja movies so we went over once.

All of these Ninja movies — and a number of other movies, including some porn — were all on Betamax. Apparently there was still some sort of Betamax pirate ring in operation and Don was the kingpin, sending and receiving new movies on the format. Today, the only real equivalent would be something like a VHS pirate ring distributing new releases on ratty old tapes — even VCD is less obsolete. He held onto his love of Betamax through the years. I believe he eventually went DVD, but only after amassing a horde of tapes that lay around his bachelor’s apartment in random heaps. He bet wrong — as, sadly, a number of folks who bought HD DVD players for the 360 — and stuck to his bet even after everyone else had gone home.

I still believe hybrid will stick around. There are too many folks who already invested enough money in HD DVDs to make at least a few hybrid players useful. It’s sad to see a standard die but don’t become trapped in the past, friends. Check your local Best Buy for grief workshops and stay strong in the knowledge that this will probably be the last physical movie format we ever see.

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