Monday, May 9

The Betamax Stigma vs. Other Obsolete Video Formats

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Has anyone else ever experienced the widespread perception of Betamax firsthand? The Thorn EMI Beta of The Dark Crystal (1982) below was found at a church this past Saturday. When I picked it up and asked how much the lady paused for a moment as if stunned anyone would care and simply said, "Uhhh, it's free, you can take it." Of course, the term "Betamax" has become synonymous with dead, unwanted technology. It's just strange to witness just how unwanted anything actually Beta is.

At that same church sale, a few rows down, a guy had a beat-all-to-hell CED player and about forty equally gnarled discs tied together with shoestring. Even after kindly asking, he simply refused to let me pick through and buy individual discs. The ass then got testy and seemed to not believe me when I revealed that I owned the same player (the RCA SFT100 in much better condition). Oh well, his loss. He probably threw all that dead weight back in his van later finding I was the only one who showed more than just a passing interest.

It's funny how many times I see this. Betamax is lucky to not immediately get hauled to the dumpster; while other dead formats are stupidly coveted in unbreakable bundles for sale. Even though one could argue formats like CED and LaserDisc were even worse in North American marketability than the scapegoated Betamax. Another example was awhile ago when I found a couple Betas amongst piles of VHS and the seller exclaimed "Wow, I thought I threw all these away yesterday!" Or the times I've bought both formats at the same time and the Betas go for a fraction of the VHS price.

I guess it's both a blessing and curse. The Betas that survive seem so lowly in resale value that one can snag them for a song. Yet there's tons crushed with diapers and banana peels in landfills. This makes the hunt both more thrilling, that is if you're a dork like myself, and a race aganist time...

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