Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Real Reason for the Death of Laserdiscs

There are a lot of reasons why Laserdiscs never caught on. They were bulky, they couldn't hold more than about thirty minutes of video a side, they tended towards glitchiness, and you couldn't record on them. Videotape was bound to win out in the consumer market.

But ever since I've discovered this 1977 article about "Videodiscs" I'm convinced that the REAL reason Laserdiscs failed was because they were being promoted by a guy named Alfred Bork, and he looked like this:

Crazy Sasquatch! Considering the rigid standards of cleanliness required during the manufacture of laserdiscs, his Rasputin beard and woolly-mammoth arms must have sent scientists and technicians fleeing their laboratories.

All that said, however, I do have a point to make about computer technology in the '70s...they were so darn obsessed with the EDUCATIONAL potential of computers, in the same way that everyone was ga-ga about the educational applications of laserdiscs. Even in the 1980s, the manufacturers of home computers were insisting that their personal computers had the best quiz and tutorial programs, even though the children forced to PLAY those programs ran like scientists from a tech-guru's beard.

As computers got smaller and more affordable they entered schools and homes for the first time, and I imagine that educators and parents had to convince themselves that they weren't buying toys, they were buying TOOLS, and the companies were more than willing to play along. Jeez, remember all those awful exercise and recipe-storage programs they used to try to sell us, and all those "educational games" to teach you touch-typing?

Eventually it sank in that playing games WAS a great reason to buy a computer, and as the price of memory decreased the home computer became a viable business facilitator as well. Nowadays I suppose most people buy computers so they can use the internet and get email, which makes me wonder if the PC will be supplanted by the Smartphone someday.

I'm just happy as long as we never see software like this again:

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