I was in the video rental store the other day when I noticed a section devoted to something called Blu-Ray. There was a movie on that shelf I wanted to view, so I picked up a copy and took it to the counter, where I asked if the Blu-Ray disc would play in my machine. I was told that it would not, and when I asked why, it was explained to me that a regular DVD player uses a red laser, while a Blu-Ray uses a blue laser. Well, there you go. It all makes perfect sense, now that I know about the blue laser.
They’re about to do it to me again.
If you ever want to know which way the technological wind is going to blow, just keep an eye on me. And whatever I do, immediately do the opposite. I am the Typhoid Mary of technology, and in the long history of media decisions, I have picked wrong every single time.
If you think I am kidding, consider my track record with music. I replaced my phonograph with the best reel-to-reel tape machine that money could buy on the day before eight-track tapes were invented. I subsequently speculated heavily in the eight-track futures market but was caught short on my margin when a new technology—the cassette tape—was developed, one that did not require the aid of a folded-up matchbook shoved up under it to make it play.
Acknowledging defeat, I got rid of all my phonograph records, reel-to-reel tapes, and eight-track titles and replaced them with the newfangled cassettes just in time to see those sail into the sunset, as well, thanks to CD’s. So I bought CD’s, but guess what? They are already considered to be quaint technology, which is the step right before obsolete, which in turn is the last stop before the landfill. Now that MP3’s and iPods have arrived, hold onto your billfold.
Incidentally, the albums, eight tracks, cassettes, and reel-to-reels that I got rid of are now worth a small fortune on eBay as antiques.
If this story sounds like I simply have bad luck in the music realm, let us turn our attention to video. Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away lived a monstrosity called a video laser disc player. I, of course, was at the head of the line and bought serial # 1. It played laser discs that were so large it took two people to load them. These discs were as expensive as small European automobiles. To my knowledge, only two movies were ever recorded in this medium: Star Wars and A John Wayne Movie. There may have been more, but I had to sell a kidney to buy those two, and my doctor strongly advised against marketing additional organs just so I could add more titles to my collection.
While I was contentedly watching my two movies, the entertainment industry quietly decided to move in the direction of video tapes. There were two choices: VHS and Beta. I hopped right on the Beta wagon because it was clearly the better of the two technologies, and I bought one of the only two machines ever sold. Mr. Beta’s mama purchased the other one. VHS subsequently ruled for many years.
Then one day, I was in the video rental store when I noticed a new section devoted to something called DVD. I know. It sounds familiar. I asked the guy at the counter what was going on, and when he averted his eyes while stammering something about technological advances, I sighed. Counting the laser disc, which I had donated to the Smithsonian, I was about to have to purchase my fourth copy of Star Wars.
For a few months during the transition, customers could rent or buy their movies in either format, but it was only a matter of time until DVD’s were “in” and VHS cassettes were relegated to the big discount bin at the front of the Wal-Mart.
Now, a scant few years later, DVD’s have apparently had their reign, and it is time for something else. And just like back in the days of Beta and VHS, two choices have evolved: what I have, or Blu-Ray. It looks like Blu-Ray is probably going to win, and I guess it is my fault. If, like me, you are stuck with a garden-variety DVD machine, I owe you an apology. When I bought mine, it was apparently the signal to the entertainment industry to proceed with Blu-Ray. I had noticed the guy in the trench coat and dark glasses behind me in the checkout line, and I wondered why he started hollering into his cell phone just as soon as I handed the money to the sales clerk.
“Green light on the Blu-Ray!” he shouted. “Do you copy? Blu-Ray is a go!”