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June 2020 Retro Gaming Article


August 22, 2020 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Even after the Beta vs VHS format-war, I was naive enough to think it was the last one. The cloud is not a format!

This t-shirt design brought back memories of the second format-war I experienced. I adored my Betamax!
Betamax and Relax Even after watching cassettes dominate 8-track, I had no idea my life would be a constant change of media formats. I never owned one, but I remember seeing 8-track tapes everywhere. Their portability and push-button track access seemed pretty cool to me. One Christmas we were planning on buying my Dad an 8-track player. I remember my somber reaction to the salesman telling my Mom that cassettes were taking over and not to bother with 8-track. We bought a cassette player that hit me like the ultimate betrayal.

I was stunned. How could that be? I saw 8-track tapes everywhere! I must have been around 8 years old at the time and already I had an affinity for a media format... that was being discontinued. I had no idea my life would be spent updating my media to the latest tech.

During college I had a large cassette collection - mostly made up o my vinyl LPs that I recorded to cassette as a matter of preservation. When CDs arrived, I gladly gave up my analog media for those shiny new discs. Everything about Compact Discs made sense to me. It was a logical upgrade. I still love the analog sound of an LP, but once I was able to burn my own music CDs, there was no turning back.

Betamax and Relax Around this same time I was an ardent supporter of Betamax. The picture quality was better than VHS and the blank tapes offered better recording lengths. But video rental stores were the proving ground for this battle. Beta versus VHS ultimately came down to pornography. When porn began arriving on VHS, largely leaving Beta behind, the war was over.

Converting to VHS was the hardest thing I'd faced as a format fan. I had hundreds of Beta tapes full of tv shows and movies I'd recorded and many pre-recorded films. I bought my first VHS player in 1988 and felt as though I was again betraying an old friend... a friend far superior to my new pal, VHS. Then I discovered Laser Discs, but had to convert to DVD. Then Blu-ray came along, but that was more of an upgrade, I didn't bother re-purchasing my movie collection, I just swapped over to buying that format going forward.

Will I Have To Endure Another Format War?

At my present age, I wonder if I'll have to do this again. I'm a fan of physical media, be it music, video games, or films. To me, streaming and the cloud is not an upgrade. It's a tether. A way to force you into a service with 80% B-movies and assorted garbage. Owning DVDs feels freeing. I love to peruse my collection "blockbuster style" and can always find a movie I love in a matter of minutes. I can spend an hour searching through streaming services and just give up.

Finding a good movie via on-screen searching is dreadful!
To be honest, I feel the online searching issue has to do with discovery issues. Those huge tiles are slow and reveal little information. Their idea of genres is that all movies fit into at least a dozen genres, so I see the same titles in Action as I do Scifi and Horror. It's just too time consuming to search online menus. From music to video games, good choices should be revealed much sooner. That voice-button on the remote is nifty, but doesn't hel at all.

Streaming services made it sound like you'd have access to every film or tv show ever made. Instead, you get a few new additions each month and they remove films as well! I love physical media. 90% of ownership is having the product in your hand - not in a cloud!

I don't view streaming and digital copies to be a new "format." I see it as a way to adjust conformity. When a movie I love watching is removed from a streaming service, I see the value of DVDs and physical media. It offers nothing that enhances or betters the viewing, playing or listening experience. It simply introduces limits masked as convenience. Listening to music or watching a movie on your phone is convenient, but when you trade freedom for convenience, we all lose.

I'll choose browsing through my CDS, video games, and movies any day over digital menus jam-packed with a rotating array of crap!

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