Magazine Article


What Difference Do 10 Years Really Make?

What Difference Do 10 Years Really Make?

The DVD disc is the latest in mass-storage media, and it makes the logical candidate for the next home and hearth of "digital negatives." That role has been held since 1992 by the CD-R, but CD-Rs these days start to seem small. Digicams come in 5-million-pixel models now, writing files that measure 16-megabytes each as TIFFs. Where do you put them all?
The mathematics are simple enough: at that file size, you can get 40 pictures on a CD. In the old days of 35mm, we maxed-out at 36 pix per load. Four extra pictures in the digital age! Is that the big difference 10 years make?
Well, not exactly. For starters, you can get a lot more than 40 shots on a CD-R. Kodak saw to that in 1992, when they introduced the public to digital photography. The Photo CD held 100 pictures, in multiple resolutions at that. Compression was the trick. There are plenty of good reasons to store pictures as full size TIFFs, but squooshing them down with lossless or near-lossless compression is what most people do.
Even compressed, though, pictures take space. One-hundred is a nice round number, but it's less than three rolls of that 35mm film.
Use heavier compression? Abandon Kodak's original Image Pack, and write each file at just one resolution?
These steps save space. Even so, a CD-R does fill up. Then you need a second. And third, and fourth. After ten years of Photo CDs and photo CDs (that is, Kodak and generic), how many discs do folks have out there, anyhow?
The dang things add up, if you're photographically active. They're crowding our shelves. Wouldn't it be nice if we could copy them to something, and pare down the pile? Something that is, say, seven times larger?

Enter DVD
At 4.7-gigabytes, DVD discs hold the contents of more than 7 CD-Rs, hence take one-seventh the space. Home décor triumphs, at the same time that the market for DVD-R enlarges by a factor of p (p = the number of people in the world who take pictures).
You'd think the DVD guys would have noticed the picture-taking public, as consumer electronics increasingly took over the American home. Living rooms are where people look at their pictures. The living rooms of our parents probably included a TV. Today's home-theaters sometimes include living rooms. That's one of the differences 10 years make.
You'd think it would make sense to add digital photos in to the home theater mix. They're a big added value. Consumers may not have reported this to the surveys yet, but a photo played from the DVD system could make home theater much friendlier. It customizes the content. It puts the Joe 'n Jane Foto Show on the same screen, thus the same exalted plane, as Oprah. When Gramma 'n Gramps drop in for a visit, they can see the kids' snapshots on-screen with gusto and panache.
Is there a household today that doesn't take pictures? Do you suppose there's a market here, awaiting cultivation? Why weren't the DVD guys breaking down the doors, to get to these consumers?
Oh yeah, that's right, cultivation takes time, and the investors are impatient. They want a DVD market now. So why not? DVD was begat by two different groups in the first place, one with ties to Hollywood. The two agreed to sit down together. When they got up again, they had one basic standard for today's Digital Versatile Disc.
So how to arouse consumer interest in the new delivery system? The people with movie connections knew one thing for sure: home video had grown very popular. And that was with low-quality, easily damaged videotapes, which drew dirty looks from the rental clerk if returned unrewound. The market for DVD movies existed—no cultivation required. And DVDs added all sorts of values, to the American pastime of watching the tube.

All over again?
Riding in on the movies, the DVD arrives similarly to the way CD did before it. As a vessel, the original CD needed something to contain, and those guys found music. Today's guys find flix.

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