media and technology

Thanksfbr e memory

Digital Video Disc (DVD) is being hailed as the best thing since CD- ROM. Now it may be big, it may be clever and it may have the memory to store a pile of novels taller than the Empire State Building, but will it ever catch on? Asks John Henderson.

VD is coming.‘ scream the boffins and the techno magazines. Are you ready for it? Is anyone? Do you even care?

Digital Video Disc (DVD) is the potential successor to the now old-fashioned Compact Disc. It comes in three forms DVD-ROM. DVD Video and DVD Audio. Looking similar to a CD. the essential difference is one of storage capacity. The largest DVD disc will cope with a staggering seventeen gigabytes of data. In real terms. that means it could handle either all three Godfather movies, all the original Beatles

albums plus those of John Lennon, or a stack of

novels taller than the Empire State Building. Best of all. you won‘t have to chuck your CD collection. DVD is backwards compatible. and DVD players will be able to read CDs.

So DVD definitely has size on its side. but will anyone know what to do with it? The first people to latch onto this fresh and funky new format have. not surprisingly. been the computer industry. with their ever increasing demands for space. Andy Shaw. technical guru and features editor for PC Home magazine. is enthusiastic about DVD-ROM’s future. ‘The backward compatibility with CD-ROM will mean that the intelligent consumer will not be afraid of it.’ says Shaw. ‘I would guess the technology could

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become well adopted within a year or so. and standard within two.’ Once again. the computer industry reveals it will welcome anything bigger and faster with open arms.

When it comes to DVD Audio. however. music people are sceptical. ‘The industry’s reaction has been a mixture of lack of interest and fear.’ says Steve Redmond. editor-in-chief of Music Week. According to Redmond. the lack of interest comes from the failure of DCC and MiniDisc. although Sony are making a valiant attempt to reviVe the latter at the moment. The fear stems from the threat of piracy. and the very fact that you can indeed fit the entire Beatles catalogue on one disc. And that’s not all. ‘Even CDs are pushing the creative ability of some bands.’ Redmond admits. To musos. at least. small seems to be beautiful.

You might think that being able to manage audio and visual material as well as raw data would make DVD the ideal one-stop format for everybody. A single machine per household. that can service all three formats. could cut away a great deal of soon-to-be-rcdundant technology. but Shaw sees this as some way off. ‘Convergence of entertainment technology is distinctly possible.’ he says. ‘Though really we’re going to have to wait for digital broadcasting. very high bandwidth cable transmission and other key technologies to fall into place before we see true all-in-one home entertainment systems.’ That’ll be pretty soon then.

As with all new consumer digitalia. DVD’s

future seems a little uncertain. It would not be advisable to rush into it tomorrow. The best thing to come out of its development. however. is the aforementioned backwards compatibility. Perhaps in the future. old formats will no longer become obsolete so quickly. ‘Who would now be prepared to throw away their CD collections like we all ditched tapes‘?‘ asks Shaw. Well. excuse me. but some of us haven’t even got round to the tapes yet. DVD playing equipment will soon be available, though European prices have yet to befixed. C urrenr US prices are around $200 for DVD-ROM players; and $600 for DVD Video players.



11/. .’ii,

on: coming to a home near you?

Bits and bytes

King of the R Nerds Bill Gates’s quest . for world domination received a boost this week as news broke that Kermit

and other furry Muppet friends are joining the ranks of Microsoft.

Rumours that key Muppets will stand in for Gates when he’s away on business are insubstantiated. but an exclusive deal between Jim Henson Productions (creator of The Muppem) and Microsoft to create family entertainment programmes for online service, The Microsoft Network (MSN). has been confirmed.

Sources remain tight-lipped about how much Gates has parted with to bring Jim Henson lnteractive’s considerable multimedia talents on board. Letsjust say notes changing hands are unlikely to have been Kermit-coloured green ones. Elsewhere in the world of media money talks for men’s magazines (as if you didn’t know). The latest figures from Mintel reveal that the Iadmags bursting out all over from your newsagent’s shelves have created a 400 per cent rise in sales over the past five years and a market worth Ioadsamoncy. or in real terms £3 million. Get a load of this though. The same research also reveals that readers of FHM. Eat Soup and Loaded are not all the birds and bevvy-merchants they’re cracked up to be. Many. say Mintel. are family men or office types who prefer a quiet night in to a bender with the lads. Well. what a surprise.

There’s always room for another of course, and the latest to join the queue for the blokish pound, is John Brown Publishing’s Bizarre (launch price £1; regular price £2.50). a new bi-monthly magazine aimed at l8—3I-year-old males and dedicated to the strange things people do. Less illegal than it sounds. the title is taking a different route to men’s hearts by creating a younger. slicker alternative to that chronicle of weird Fortean Times. The launch issue boasts articles on exorcism. UFOs. the curse of Superman and. last but not least. for that essential off-the-shelf l8—30-year-old buy. a naked woman pouting from beneath silky sheets on the cover. Your dad will love it. (Ellie Carr)

The List 7-20 Feb I997 99