With its incredible image and audio capabilities, Blu-ray has proven itself to be a tremendously versatile format. Its competitor today will be the VHS cassette, a form of magnetic media storage from the world-that-once-was. Let’s not underestimate the now-defunct technology that drove the spinning wheels of VHS cassettes – it’s proven itself to be incredibly robust. Without further adieu, it's time to throw these two storage mediums into the ring... for a 20th Century vs. 21st Century showdown.
Like Rocky Balboa, when VHS was first released many assumed it would never be champ. Its opponent, Betamax, truly was the Apollo Creed of the home video world. All around the globe, we watched the first and second Rocky films on these two formats – and were startled as Beta began to sway only years after its initial release. Soon VHS stood alone, and enjoyed an unchallenged reign for dang near a decade before a new kid would emerge to challenge him for the championship.
With a stunning resolution of 333 X 480, VHS was truly the king of NTSC formats. With that kind of resolution, one could look forward to viewing a stunning image composed from billions of dazzling pixels. Well, a bunch of colourful pixels. Uh, at least enough pixels to form an image. Okay, VHS’ best resolution was capable of about 1/6 of a Megapixel, but that’s better than a Gameboy. A monochrome Gameboy. Without a backlight. Played in a cave, at night.
So how does Blu-ray stack up? With an on-screen resolution of up to 1920 X 1080, it casts a long shadow -- one that plunges the VHS cassette into abject darkness, never to be seen of again. Predictably, Round One goes to Blu-ray.
Round Two. Capable of audio playback in the 20 Hz to 20 KHz range, Hi-Fi VHS cassettes delivered a level of sound quality that rivalled some of the finest headphones which can be purchased in dollar stores today. Blu-ray, on the other hand, features Dolby True HD Lossless audio – which offers sound that’s identical to the studio master, with a playback quality of up to 192 Khz.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Blu-ray wins again.
In 2008, a Japanese poll revealed that about 68 percent of the population still owned VHS players. Compare that to the 6.3 percent that owned Blu-ray players, and our collective surprise is self-evident. Future Shop is still proud to carry VHS-compatible devices, like the excellent and affordable Toshiba DVD Recorder/VHS Combo. The current availability of VHS devices is an amazing accomplishment for the old magnetic-tape based medium, considering it first hit the market in 1976.
So where will Blu-ray be in 36 years? Let’s cast our minds forward to 2048. Cybo-Rocky 6 has just been released, in a box set with Rambo First Blood Part 83. We’re sitting down in front of our glassless 3D media machine, which will probably be called the Sony Immers-o-Vision or the Toshiba Vis-o-Tron, or simply the Samsung Interacto. As Cybo-Rambo emerges from his cryogenic slumber and begins his descent to the planet Venus (to free the human settlers from their vicious mutant oppressors), will the VHS tape suddenly jam?
Only time will tell.
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