The day of reckoning for one of the extended-resolution video formats has come. Toshiba announced that it will no longer pour cash down the HD DVD hole. The BBC News site has a quick Q&A about what went down.
Wal-Mart backed the competing format, Blu-Ray, as did Best Buy and several major film studios. When both options launched in 2004, each had relatively equal backing from equipment manufacturers and film studios. The tides turned, and HD DVD has gone the way of the wax cylinder.
Format wars are something that we have discussed here in the past at length. They are often expressions of R&D dollars, with outcomes that are driven more by marketing budgets rather than true technological superiority. For an example, see the advert above for the product referenced so many times with this news: Betamax.
Betamax died an unfair death, it could be said. It was a capable format, and was refined to a great degree for the Japanese market where it thrived for many years after VHS’s domination in the US. Wrong place, wrong time, perhaps.
I remember when my folks came home with our family’s first VCR, a Quasar, in 1984; it was a front-loader, rather than a top-loader [good choice #1] and it was VHS [good choice #2]. It was a crap shoot. At the small-town electronics retailer, there was no clear winner to be had in the format war. The only advice offered was that of, “Well, you can rent more videos in VHS.” Sold!
My old boss at the record store that employed me during my college years was an advocate for all formats. He claimed that if you are a real collector, a real fan, you need the capability to play as many formats as possible. He had Beta decks he kept proudly in solid working order.
Even the old Edison cylinder phonograph, too, succumbed to an unfair fate. The phonograph cylinder was superior in quality to its predecessor, the flat Gramophone disc format [which later evolved into the LP record]. Witness one of these, still in working order: