One type of technology that definitely brings people a lot of entertainment, enjoyment, and even social bonding is video gaming platforms. Ever since Atari and other primitive video game platforms first came out about thirty years ago, the video gaming industry has tried to make better and better devices to keep people interested in all the have to offer.There have been a number of breakthroughs in video gaming technology over the years, and as a result we now have video game platforms that have built in hard drives, optical disc drives, enormous amounts of RAM, and even multiple computer processors working in parallel. In the past, the major competitors in the video gaming industry have been Atari and Intellivision, and later Nintendo and Sega, but now it’s pretty much come down to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s Play Station 3. Both of these two products have a lot in common, including the fact that they both have multiple processors, built in hard drives, optical disc drive, the ability to connect to the Internet, and stunning graphics that can reach HDTV resolutions.One of the features that they both have in common is the ability to play high definition DVD’s onto HDTV sets, making them high definition DVD players (as well as normal DVD plays and CD players). Even these High Definition DVD formats are in competition because the Play Station 3 plays Sony’s Blu-ray high def DVD format and the Xbox 360 plays Toshiba’s HD-DVD format. The way in which these two devices accomplishes this are a little bit different though. That’s because the Xbox 360’s ability to play high def DVD’s comes from an optional HD-DVD drive that can be attached to the unit via cable, and the Play Station 3 comes with a Blu-ray drive installed.The fact that these two devices play different High Def DVD’s has brought them right into the middle of a format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Both formats essentially accomplish the same thing (although there are technical reasons why Blu-ray may be superior), but can’t be played on each other’s players and disc drives. For that reason, it’s generally agreed that only one of the formats can survive the format war.Both Sony and Toshiba (with Microsoft’s help) have been trying to gain an edge in the market for their respective formats, and both of these video game systems have become pawns in the format war. It was hoped that the Play Station 3 would promote the benefits of the Blu-ray format to people who would buy a Play Station anyway and then watch Blu-ray discs on it as an afterthought. The problem with this strategy has been that the extra cost of including a Blu-ray drive is reflected in the Play Station 3’s price and many gamers don’t want to pay the extra money. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, has avoided that pitfall by making its HD-DVD drive an optional separate purchase.All format wars aside though, these to gaming platforms are very impressive pieces of technology.
Digital TV is a type of technology that has a number of benefits, but is causing a fair amount of frustration for a number of people. Digital TV actually isn’t a particularly new form of technology. In fact, it has been in widespread use since the early nineteen nineties when satellite TV companies like Echostar (Dish Network) and DIRECTV started to offer affordable satellite TV service with dishes small enough as not to dominate the entire yard. Digital TV became portable in the late nineteen nineties with the introduction of the DVD, and is now slated to become the exclusive over the air TV format as of February 17, 2009.This conversion to digital TV is what has a lot of people generally annoyed. Converting over the air TV to exclusively digital format would provide viewers with better pictures and access to an on screen program guide. It would also free up over the air bandwidth that could then be used for emergency services communications and for wide spread implementation of wireless Internet access. The trouble with digital TV comes from two different forms of resistance. First, there is the TV viewing public who are still largely watching TV sets that don’t have the digital tuners necessary to watch over the air digital TV. Second, there are the TV stations themselves who don’t want to spend the money to switch their equipment over to transmit digital TV.As far as the TV viewing public goes, there are actually relatively few problems with switching their equipment over to over the air digital TV signals. That’s because there are relatively few people- about twenty one million to be exact- who rely on over the air TV for their TV entertainment. The rest either do without TV or subscribe to cable TV or satellite TV, both of which presumably provide receiver boxes capable of receiving digital TV signals and then converting them over to the analog signals that the TV sets can understand. Other converter boxes that can pick up digital over the air TV signals and convert them to analog are being made available to consumers. Purchase of these converters are being subsidized by the federal government through coupons that are worth forty dollars when they go towards the purchase of a digital to analog converter. Because the converter boxes are expected to cost sixty to seventy dollars, consumers will still have to use some of their own money. There’s also the very real possibility that many consumers will want to buy new TV sets anyway, in which case they’ll probably just get digital TV sets. The real challenge is letting TV viewers know that the change will happen so that they can prepare for it.Broadcasters are tougher cases in many ways. That’s because they’ve been dragging their feet on the conversion for year and as a result, the conversion keeps getting pushed back. For example, the conversion has been in the works since 1996 and the first conversion was scheduled for 1998. The refusal to make the change on the parts of broadcasters has gotten in the way of a number of different telecommunications initiatives. These broadcasters seem to forget that the American people own the frequencies on which they broadcast and can take away their licenses at any time.
There are some new developments in the war between Toshiba’s HD-DVD format and Sony’s Blu-ray. Toshiba recently announced the release of a HD-DVD player capable of playing High Definition video in 1080p resolution, and Sony says that it will release a Blu-ray recorder in Japan by the end of the year. Both of these moves are meant to give each company an advantage in the competition to have their High Definition video disc format come out on top.For anyone not familiar with this issue, Blu-ray and HD-DVD are both High Definition Television Digital Video Discs (DVD’s) and are competing in the marketplace to become the dominant format. Both use blue laser technology to pack more data onto a disc than standard DVD technology- which uses a red laser- is capable of. The fact that they can deal with more data makes both formats up to the task of storing High Definition Video content, but there are some pretty major differences between them. For example each side of an HD-DVD can hold fifteen gigabytes of data or thirty gigabytes total, while a Blu-ray disc can hold twenty five gigabytes per side or fifty gigabytes total.Looking at the difference in the capacities of the two formats, it should be a no brainer that the Blu-ray format should win out in this war, but it’s not quite that simple. Blu-ray disc players tend to be more expensive than HD-DVD players, and each format has the backing of some pretty major players in the home entertainment electronics and computer industries. For example, Blu-ray has the support of a number electronics manufacturers including Sony, Dell, Apple, Philips, Sharp, HP, and many others. It also has the support of a number of movie studios including Paramount, Fox, Disney, MGM, and Warner The HD-DVD format has the support of only three studios- Warner, Universal, and Paramount. (Paramount and Warner are hedging their bets in this war by releasing titles in both formats.) The fact that so many more studios are backing Blu-ray is another factor that bodes well for it’s triumph, but that gain is largely offset by the fact that Microsoft has is backing HD-DVD by providing support for the format through it’s new Vista operating system and making the Xbox HD-DVD compatible.The HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war has had an adverse effect on the adoption of High Definition Television technology in general. Many consumers are waiting before buying a player in one format or another because they don’t want to be stuck with the loser in a few years which is what happened to people who invested in Betamax video cassette technology over twenty years ago. As a result, backers of both technologies are angling to give their’s a foothold, which is what we’re seeing now.The introduction Toshiba’s new HD-DVD player that can handle 1080p will probably just make HD-DVD more competitive with Blu-ray, because Blu-ray players are already 1080p capable. At present though, this is something of a moot point because there isn’t really anything to watch in 1080p resolution anyway. Sony’s Blu-ray recorder could give the technology a leg up. After all, if you can record in a format, then you have something to watch in that format, which will make it more attractive.What the industry really needs to do is create devices that are compatible with both HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. The first one to do that will see immediately see huge profits and prevent any one format form monopolizing the High Definition Television DVD market.