DVD spells doom for videotapes

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The Independent Online
THE grey box looked much like any other bit of hi-fi - the same size as a standard CD player, though the remote control was another matter, boasting 29 buttons, a cursor pad and a circular control. I felt a twinge of techno-overload, writes Charles Arthur, Technology Editor.

It was my first glimpse of a DVD player. But having seen what it produces on a TV screen, I'm confident that in future I will see many, many more. This is the future of recorded TV, and it works.

The box containing the DVD disc was larger than a normal CD case, but the disc inside looked just like any CD - except that both sides were silver, testimony to how densely the data is packed onto it. Where a CD can afford to waste a whole side with names, the DVD can barely squeeze on its name, rank and serial number.

Even on a first exposure, one notices the absence of blips and hiss that you get on videotape. The picture is pin-sharp and the sound is in stereo and free of any distortion. Bored with listening to films in English? Want to pretend you're highbrow? Press a few buttons and the same disc gives you the film, spoken in French. Or Spanish. Another button and you've got subtitles - English, French, Spanish or German. My French swearing has thus improved immeasurably.

Besides that, the disc turned out to contain yet more wrinkles, of perhaps dubious utility: the trailer for the film, and filmographies and biographies of its stars.

"Fast-forwarding" and "rewinding" are simplified too - no more guessing how far you've gone; you can pick exactly which scene you go to.

The only advantage videotape now has is that you can record and re-record on it. But in a few years there will be rewritable DVD players, and then one can see the VCR becoming a thing of the past. You might as well clear a space now beside your vinyl LPs in the cupboard. That's where your videotapes are going to turn to dust, too.