diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 24, 2002


Gadgets and inventions are very much a part of modern life. Many things that we take for granted today weren't even around ten or twenty years ago, but for many of us life is now unthinkable without them. Some people just have to have the latest gadget, else their life is incomplete. These people can be found kerb-crawling on Tottenham Court Road trying to haggle down the price of some pocket-sized electronic miracle, or else they're queueing outside the Bang & Olufsen shop waiting to purchase the latest overpriced slab of brushed-chrome gadgetry. Meanwhile the rest of us just prefer to wait a bit longer until the technology improves and the price comes down.

I will confess to needing wide screen television, compact discs, mobile phones, the internet and broadband in order to survive. However, there is one really common-place gadget that I have never ever felt I needed or wanted. This gadget may only have been around for five years or less, but I still get strange looks when I admit to not having one of them. I confess. I do not own a DVD player.

Now, don't get me wrong, I can see the point of video recorders. A nation's TV viewing changed overnight with the advent of the video recorder, because at last you could watch a programme even if you were out when it was shown, or if there was something else on you wanted to watch at the same time. I love being able to record what I want and to watch it when I want. I'm even pretty good at remembering to watch what I've recorded before I accidentally tape something else over the top of it. However, it appears that most people prefer the other use of the video recorder - the ability to play back pre-recorded videos, as hired or bought from the shops. That's not me. Over the course of the last 20 years I've accumulated a massive collection of just 23 pre-recorded video tapes. And, as I've said, zero DVDs.

The DVD player, like the CD player before it, is the perfect opportunity for entertainment corporations to reissue product you already own, in the hope that you'll buy it again. You may already own Star Wars on video, but we can sell it to you again with better picture quality, and then can we sell it to you again with three minutes of extra footage we didn't think was good enough to put in the original film, plus a commentary by the director that's probably almost worth listening to once, plus a couple of teletext-type pages of biographical information just to pad the menu out. DVDs also have this annoying habit of 'going back to the beginning', so you have to watch the intro again plus the warning not to show this film on an oil-rig, before trying to remember exactly where you were in the film before you accidentally pressed the wrong button. And don't get me started on the great regional-DVD corporate scam to stop people from buying more cheaply abroad, although thankfully this plot does appears to have failed.

So, why don't I do DVDs? It's because I have this annoying thing called a memory, which means that when I've seen a film once I tend to remember the plot and so it doesn't hold up to repeated viewing every Saturday night for a year. I'm happy to wait three years from a film's first showing at the cinema and then watch it when a TV station tells me I ought to. Or, of course, I can video it instead. OK, so the picture quality isn't quite as good, and you can't freeze-frame that one moment where your favourite movie star gets their kit off, but the plot doesn't get any better just because the film's on DVD, and neither does the acting. And I'm not forking out £20 a week, or a grand a year, on a whole wall of shelving at home covered by films I'll only watch once, if that.

So, my apologies if you are the sort of person who's bought all the Star Trek DVDs and arranged them in order so that the spines make up a picture of Captain Janeway, or if there's a rickety pile of plastic cases balanced so precariously on your floor so that you can never find The Matrix even though you know it's in there somewhere, probably twice. I hope you won't ostracise me just because I'm a DVD-less deviant. Who knows, if you ever came round to my place we might even be forced to have a conversation.

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