Being on the losing side is a drag


I’ve been Betamaxed.

Actually, the realization just hit me that many of you might not remember Betamax, and the battle for technological supremacy it had with VHS during the 1980s. An even scarier thought is the notion that some of you might not even be familiar with the VHS format. So, in a nutshell, I got Betamaxed, and I’m getting old.

To recap, Sony’s Betamax video format battled with VHS for home video supremacy and, quite obviously, the VHS won the war. For those who invested in Betamax players and cassettes, it was wasted money as the VHS claimed supremacy in the first real fight for controlling what method we watch videos at home.

The next big move in home video was the DVD — a single format that didn’t confuse people and improved both the sound and video quality for the home video watcher. DVDs are still the dominant force in home video, and we have seen many of the national electronics stores stop carrying VHS tapes completely.

Yes, we all had to buy DVD players, and, yes, the trend of people collecting DVDs and enhancing their video libraries has soared as DVDs take less space and the cases are a lot more durable than the VHS tapes that came out before them. However, it’s been a good, solid format that everyone can pretty much understand.

Then came the next wave of technology. As more people have been buying HD televisions, and subsequently more television programming has been made available in HD, the demand for videos that takes advantage of this new technology has soared exponentially. We’ve seen Microsoft unleash its XBox 360 and Sony come out with its Playstation 3 — both of which utilize HD technology to enhance the experience for gamers.

And something else came out of these two wildly popular video game formats — the budding battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray, another effort by the people at Sony to capture the home video market.

See, the next-generation home video battle was being discussed in some technology corners, and those following the situation realized immediately that only one side would be left standing in the end, but it was the fight between Playstation 3 and XBox 360 that would ultimately prove to be the biggest test. The Playstation 3 would allow people to play Sony’s Blu-ray videos, and the XBox 360 would be compatible with Toshiba’s HD DVDs.

The two formats were also being battled out by the big movie companies. Some released their videos in HD DVD format, and some went with Blu-ray. Warner Brothers was releasing its movies in both formats, but recently announced it would only be utilizing Blu-ray. Recently, Wal-Mart, Netflix, Blockbuster and Target also announced they would only be carrying Blu-ray videos. And, over the weekend, Toshiba announced it would strongly consider ending its HD DVD experiment, thus cementing victory for the people at Blu-ray.

Guess which one I bought. Go ahead. Think about it long and hard. That’s right. I bought the HD DVD player, and quite a few HD DVD movies to enjoy on my fancy new player.

Excuse me, I have to make a stop at eBay, and try to unload this junk.

It’s hard not to take this personally. You look at options, study which best suits your needs, determine which one has the best growth potential and make a strong, informed decision that you believe is in the best interests of you and your family. Then you find out you got Betamaxed. I might as well have had a Blu-ray representative drop by my house at dinner and give me a wedgie and a purple nurple while my dogs pointed at me and laughed until they cried, causing me, in turn, to ...

But I digress.

I kind of feel as though I had this coming, though. I remember when the two formats first came up and the experts were telling people to be patient, don’t buy those first-generation players and wait to see what happened when the dust cleared.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I wanted to see really clear movies, and I wanted to see them immediately. Don’t tell me to wait, I thought. I’m a little smarter than the average bear. I looked at the formats, decided that I wanted to go with the HD DVD player and made my move. To be honest, the major part of my research was that I wanted an XBox 360, but that’s for another day.

And now I’m left with a few flashy movies and an HD DVD player that could double as a door stop. Oh, and a bruised ego. You can’t forget the bruised ego.

So, is there a lesson in all of this for me? Some lasting impression that will come to the surface whenever I start making a purchase on another product that may or may not be the dominant force in its industry?

Probably not.

I’m impulsive. I admit that. Like the caveman who decided it would be a good idea to eat a cold dinosaur leg for breakfast, I often jump at the first thing that catches my eye — be it the first item on the specials board at a restaurant or the first car I get in to take a test drive. If I like it, I buy it.

By the way, this HD DVD thing is truly great. If you’re interested, I can get you one pretty cheap.