They Took Our VCR's Away

Play Nice
Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Feb 10, 2020 1:19 pm
Location: Long island NY

They Took Our VCR's Away

Post by photomaster »

There was a time when few people could afford a VCR. These magical time machines for television were only available in schools, libraries, and professional video studios. As time moved on, VCR's were available for rental. Cable television arrived which brought movies into our homes. Then tapes became available for rent in either VHS or Beta format. Beta was better but Sony kept such a tight lease on their patents that VHS pushed them out of existence.

The recording industry was alarmed that such a powerful recording device was being made to the general public. At one time, the VCR was in danger of being wiped off the planet through legislation. The Supreme Court ruled that we had a right to copy programs for personal use, which hasn't deterred the recording industry from showing obnoxious FBI warnings on just about every video recording produced since then.

VHS was a powerful media. It has the ability to record anything which can be displayed on a television. Rented tapes found a way to produce annoying flashes if an illegal copy was made using some techniques from our friends at Macrovision. As the Internet became popular, Macrovision removers became a hot selling item along with tri-mode cable boxes which could de-scramble all those premium channels from the cable company.

Now we're in the age of digital television. You may just be coming to realize that the ability to record anything at any time has been taken away from you. We are now all quietly controlled through Digital Rights Management (DRM). Sure, it's wonderful to record programs on a DVR which can hold hours of hi-def movies, but have you ever tried to share one of those movies? Ah. Digital HDTV recorded on a DVR remains locked inside the box and the box is attached to the wall. No more sharing tapes with your buddies... unless you want to share a fuzzy copy recorded to a VHS recorder. Have you tried to purchase a VHS recorder lately? It's not quite as easy as it once was. You have lost.

I guess it's not such a bad gilded cage. You can record and playback your digital hi-def programs in Full-HD, but only if you play it at home. If you want to share the movie with your friends, they'll have to come visit and watch it on the new 42 inch plasma screen which you bought to play the new hi-def format.

My old JVC 27 inch CRT style television finally died. It never was able to play hi-def, HD, or digital. It couldn't tune into the new cable television signals either. It was just a squarish box with a 4:3 aspect ratio which had a somewhat decent picture. It's just TV. I've been putting off HDTV because of the expense and the fact that every HDTV I saw made people look four feet tall.

The picture on the JVC began shifting hue from a blueish white to dark red and amber then slowly back again. I re-wired a few things and cleaned up the picture a bit. Then it developed a high tech version of Tourette Syndrome when the close captioning logic began to die. The TV began displaying random letters, symbols, and numbers on the screen as the hue shifted slowly from blue to orange and back to blue. I guess it was that time.

I had wanted to hold off for the new LED technology, but it was not meant to be. I was really behind the times - after all, it's just TV. 720i and 1080i were just about phased out, giving me a choice of 720p or 1080p. The price difference between 720 and 1080 HD on the set I wanted was a mere difference of 10 percent, so I went full-HD. LG had a nice TV for $430 for a 32 inch 1080p which was a near exact replacement for my 27 inch beast, weighing in at 30 pounds to replace the 100 pound elephant. But, LG didn't have a simple analog output. To convert the 5.1 digital audio signal to simple Left and Right I would need to spend another hundred bucks on a converter box to make the audio worse.

I yelled at LG's marketing people and purchased a Samsung which had everything I wanted but for a bit more money. It has three HDMI inputs, Component In, Composite In, analog audio out, digital audio out, and of course a good ol fashioned 'F' connector for the cable. UPS arrived with the 30 pound box with a carry handle - it weighed less than most suitcases I've lugged to the airport.

I didn't know my QAM's from my ATSC's and a bunch of other acronyms which I'm still working out. So, I plugged in the cable and pressed 'auto setup'. The Samsung sat there and displayed its progress discovering channels I never knew I had. This was neat since I could still wake up to the news on a timer without going through the cable box. It also made sense of the cable box HDMI output, my DVD's component output, and my good 'ol VCR's composite video signal (which I'm not ready to give up on).

I set the TV for 16:9 and tested the cablebox's video modes. All of them worked. Then, I tweaked each broadcast format for the best picture without making them look all squished. 4:3 looked kind of primitive on this TV. Now I see why they remastered Star Trek. 720p was a great, sharp signal. It looked a bit washed out, giving me some remorse over not buying the next more expensive television. My remorse was short-lived after I found the 'Advanced Settings' where I was able to tweak in the picture. It looked great.

Then I saw 1080i full-HD. Oh my god. The first program I caught was an animated children's special. The characters moved around like they were about to jump off the screen at me. It was almost 3D. Shows like South Park and Simpsons are equally as fascinating. The writers take full advantage of the format. When Homer held a note from Bart's teacher, the note actually had words on it instead of squiggly lines. And I could read the words. It seemed to have better resolution than real life.

Now, my DVD player seemed inadequate since it didn't have a 1080i up-converter, just a component output which I'm using for the first time. Then, there's the near mythical 1080p - only achievable through Blu Ray and some stupid game from Microsoft. Blu Ray players are in the hundreds of dollars. I've seen blank Blu Ray media which comes with a legal warning to check your local ordinances before purchasing? I don't even have anything to burn them with anyway.

1080i is ill. I can count the pimples on Jon Stewart's face and tell if he had a good night's sleep. Thankfully the porn channel is still broadcast in 720 because there IS such a thing as being TOO sharp. Somehow this led me to the Roku box, which has been around for a couple of years yet I thought was just a fad. But, I have three HDMI ports and only one filled. It's a 'guy thing.' I had fill up those open sockets with devices.

I quickly ordered the Roku and linked it to Amazon's video on demand, which I'll probably never use since I have Netflix. I just started watching on-demand shows on Netflix in 720i and it's very sweet. I want to re-watch 'Soap' since I've forgotten nearly every episode and I'm sure I missed many of the jokes. Renting DVD's of 'Soap' is a pain unless you really enjoy watching 25 episodes at a time. With on-demand, you scroll through the windows, select, and play. The Roku keeps track of everything you've watched and you can stop at any time and return to the same point when you return. There's even an underground porn option for Roku, but it's only hardcore bdsm and costs $36 bucks a month. Like, let me know when you have a pay-per-view pricing level and we'll chat.

Apple's new Mac Mini for 2010 is rumored to have an HDMI port. This is good since I have a virgin HDMI socket and a 9 foot cable. Apple has some catching up to do.

For all this technology, I still don't have a way play my own DVD video, which I am creating, without first burning them to a DVD-RW and walking it over the low-tech DVD player. Come 'on guys. The closest alternate is on the Roku box by first transcoding the video and uploading it, then downloading to the box. How about streaming from my own machine?

Now I don't have enough time to watch TV.

Post Reply