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back to article Ten technology FAILS

Nokia's N-Gage, Palm's Foleo, Motorola's Atrix, Apple's Newton MessagePad, HD DVD, Sony's Rolly, Sony's Mylo, Philips' CD-i, Commodore's CD-TV, IBM's PCJr, the Camputer's Lynx, Gizmondo, the Phantom, Atari's Jaguar, MySpace, Beenz - behind every iPad there are dozens and dozens of technology products that aspired to greatness …

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VCD's

If you venture out off the UK possible eastwards towards Turkey, you will find that VCD's are very popular, and a lot cheaper than DVD's

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Windows

Re: VCD's

So ... the VCD's a complete turkey except in Turkey?

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Re: VCD's

VCDs were extremely popular in Thailand and places like that. Even 5 or 6 years ago. They were easier to pirate than VHS cassettes and karaoke was another popular use.

I actually owned a Philips CDi which with the Amiga CDTV 32 (with MPEG-1 expansion) represented the pinnacle of market penetration in the UK, i.e. none whatsoever. This wasn't surprising given that VHS had better quality and most people owned recorders which could record off the TV. Fortunately the CDi was a prize in a competition so I didn't have to regret buying it.

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Re: VCD's

I bought the CD player add-on for my Amiga I might once have played a VCD on it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: VCD's

From what I remember, back in the early days of P2P file sharing networks most people were still on dial-up. This meant most video files were horrendously compressed anyway and as such you wouldn't really lose much quality splitting them and burning them onto 2 VCD's. A lot of early DVD players at the time supported VCD so it was a convenient way of getting downloaded films from your PC and displaying them on your main TV, especially if the computer and TV were in different rooms and running a cable was not practical. Players that could read data DVD's with VidX files on them killed off this practice and were subsequently killed off by TV's able to read from inbuilt USB ports.

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Re: VCD's

I agree, Video CD's were a massive thing in the far east. You could get genuine copies of pretty much all the major films released over the last 25 years in this format, Video CD players were standard in a lot of homes in Japan for instance.

Before the advent of DVD, I remember buying quite a few films on Video CD - and not pirated ones either, genuine, licensed by the studio copies. I still have one or two at home now.

The format was so popular in Japan that there were a number of consumer devices that supported the technology, such as the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation also had a number of third party adapters that allowed them to be played on the console.

Just because they didn't take off over here doesn't really make them a fail. Instead the way they were marketed in the west should be the fail.

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Re: VCD's

Still get them in SE Asia. They're a lot cheaper than DVDs (around 3 quid usually) but the constant switching of discs makes them hassle and the quality is pretty poor.

I've also seen something out here which seems to be a precursor to VCDs that look a lot like vinyl discs (or maybe they're just massive VCDs to overcome the switching issue), but those are truly obsolete and I've never seen one in operation.

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Re: VCD's (@Whyfore)

Are you thinking of Laserdiscs maybe? They're interesting because, despite the laser and its usual connotations, they're an analogue format — the video is always analogue and the sound was originally analogue but later could be digital, in exactly the same format as a CD. Since there was no compression and the resolution was about double that of VHS, the video quality was really very good.

You got at most 60 minutes of content per side so you actually need to swap them more often than video CDs though usually that just means flipping them over and high end players could do that for you, often by having two read heads like a floppy drive rather than by physically moving the disc.

There were a bunch of weird approximately LP sized video formats in the late 70s and early 80s; for a real oddity look up the Capacitance Electronic Disc, which is grooves read by a stylus just like a record.

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Re: VCD's

Remember the Phillips Laser Disc? With the New Doomsday Book project.?

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Re: VCD's (@Whyfore)

@ThomH nope, Whyfore's right- VideoCDs were and still are extremely popular in certain countries in South East Asia even though they're declining in usage.

See, when they were released, VideoCDs were still comparatively cheap when compared to Laserdisc players, and their smaller disc appeals to collectors. I remember that a single VideoCD movie cost around RM30-50 during when VideoCDs first came out, comparatively Laserdiscs still cost over RM150 for a single movie. And a single VideoCD player costs around a third of a Laserdisc player. As a result, they swiftly knocked Laserdisc out of the market.

When DVDs came into the market, VideoCDs had become cheaper and the price of players were so affordable that practically everyone had VideoCD players then. For a comparison, DVDs cost some RM80 a movie. Comparatively, a VideoCD movie costs only RM20 by then. Crazy thing is, you could get a china-brand VideoCD player for RM80 (which is practically what everyone over here has, though the player I own was a much more sophisticated Thompson 3-disc jukebox which removed the need to change discs every hour).

And well, with the release of blu-rays, the price of DVDs are practically falling, and VideoCDs are technically only ever used for karaoke or kiddie genre flicks, as their now very low price ensures that even schoolkids with very small allowances can still afford them.

(The fact that VideoCDs lack copy protection and regional locking outside of basic PAL or NTSC (which actually only refers to the frame rate of the movie on the disc helps, particularly with importers and pirates)

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Re: VCD's

When I worked as an amusement tech back in the 80`s we had a few laser disk based machines. I was quite suprised to see a domestic laserdisk player powering our dragons lair machines, although this was probably why the things were so unreliable. They used to overheat a lot as they wernt designed to be hammered for hours on end, jumping and seeking constantly. We also had problems with dirt and sand getting inside the player, which made the thing jump and malfunction. If I recall correctly, we ended up dumping all the laserdisk machines because of the amount of service call outs. The LP sized gold disks were amazing to behold though.

Some of the LD games were actually quite good, Firefox and mach3 were my faves, although Astron belt and Road avenger get a look in as well. Dragons lair was just a very pretty money sink, not much in the way of gameplay at all.

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Re: VCD's

@ThomH I know about Laserdisc - however there was a short lived format called Video CD (not to be confused with VideoCD, which is what the bulk of this thread is about).

Video CD was a 12cm version of Laserdisc, 3 minutes of analogue video with digital sound plus space for a few more CD audio tracks. Presumably you needed a Laserdisc player to watch it.

I have a (apparently rare - I just looked it up) copy of a Level 42 (what can I say? I was young) CD Video single.

It lives in my CD dungeon and no the video track isn't recognised on any modern kit.

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Re: VCD's

Can I make an offer for it?

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Anonymous Coward

"CD Video", not "Video CD"

Steven Gray: "Not to be confused with VideoCD [which] was a 12cm version of Laserdisc"

Right idea, wrong name. (*) There *were* two different formats with confusingly similar names, but the 12cm Laserdisc-based one was called "CD Video" (**) and the later all-digital format- the one discussed in the main article- was called "Video CD".

As others have said, CD Video was an analogue video format (albeit with some digital audio). Whereas Video CD was essentially an earlier version of the DVD using an older version of the compression scheme and CD-ROM based discs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD_Video

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_CD

(*) Though to be fair I suspect this was a typo, as you use the correct name later

(**) From vague memory, and having brought this up elsewhere, I think the "CD Video" brand may actually have been used on some larger (10 or 12 inch) Laserdiscs in some markets, but don't quote me on that.

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Re: VCD's (@ThomH)

"Despite the laser and its usual connotations, [LaserDisc] is an analogue format — the video is always analogue and the sound was originally analogue but later could be digital, in exactly the same format as a CD."

This isn't really true. LaserDiscs were every bit as digital as the CD is. Unlike DVD or Video CDs though, they simply stored a digitised SVHS signal. When played back, the laser still reads the video data as 1s and 0s and then feeds that bitstream though a couple of DACs to recreate the original SVHS chrominance and luminance signals.

Likewise, the audio was always an LPCM digital bitstream, just like on a CD, but later they supported a Dolby Digital 5.1 bitstream in place of the LPCM one.

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Laserdisc *is* analogue

"This isn't really true. LaserDiscs were every bit as digital as the CD is. Unlike DVD or Video CDs though, they simply stored a digitised SVHS signal."

Wrong.

The main video signal on Laserdisc *is* an entirely analogue (i.e. non-digitised) representation of a composite video signal.

It's true that the Laserdisc video signal is stored via a series of discontinous (on/off) pits and lands. That sounds fundamentally digital, doesn't it? (Especially as digital CDs and DVDs also have physically similar pits and lands).

However, it's not. The signal is encoded via the *length* and *spacing* of those alternating pits and lands (using analogue "pulse width modulation"). Since that length/spacing is fully variable and non-quantised, that makes it entirely analogue, and not digital.

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Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

Sidenote: Even the AC-3 signal on Laserdiscs is stored in a RF-signal and you need a demodulator to turn it into digital. They also started out with analog sound only, digital stereo channels were added later. You can often find discs where the analog and digital channels hold different content such as different languages or directors commentary.

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Re:TV's able to read from inbuilt USB ports.

And the reason they can do that: kick ass Linux based OS

Imagine Microsoft releasing a Plays For Sure TV... you know it would be shit.

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Re: VCD's, etc (@RAMChYLD, others)

I'm not sure how CD Video or Video CDs match Whyfore's description of "something ... which seems to be a precursor to VCDs that look a lot like vinyl discs (or maybe they're just massive VCDs" — wouldn't those be like VCDs but exactly the same size (and in one case, exactly VCDs)?

More constructive question: does anyone else remember the Reel Magic, an MPEG1 decoding expansion card for PCs circa 1994? Other than Video CDs, I think Return to Zork had a version that supported it but that's about all. I once saw it being demonstrated with a standard retail copy of Top Gun as evidence that fast motion sequences weren't a problem, but the detail of the story was that somebody had spent weeks painstakingly tweaking the compression of that title. So not a fantastic sales pitch.

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Mushroom

Re: VCD's

You forgot Linux on the desktop.....

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Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

"Sidenote: Even the AC-3 signal on Laserdiscs is stored in a RF-signal and you need a demodulator to turn it into digital."

In that case, it's still a digital signal though; you don't "turn" it back to digital (which would imply that it had been converted to analogue then re-digitised). If the system is intentionally designed such that the digital source is modulated, and can later be recovered in its original form via demodulation, then it's still a digital signal.

Digital signals can be modulated, transmitted, whatever. They might be affected by noise, but that doesn't change that they're meant to be digital, e.g. with digital radio transmissions. That's not to say that they can't be corrupted (*), but that provided the damage isn't in excess of the system's operating limits and/or error recovery systems, the original "perfect" signal can still be retrieved.

This contrasts with Laserdisc's encoded video, which- despite the use of pits and lands to encode it- remained entirely analogue from start to finish, for the reasons given above.

(*) In the simplest digital encoding, we might represent a "1" with 100% signal and a "0" with 0%. (**) Some noise might get in to that, even with some background hiss, we know that 10% level is probably still meant to be a 0, and 90% or 110% is still probably a 1. On the other hand, if we get a signal at 50%, is that a corrupted "1" or a "0"? And a 0 might be pushed up to a 1 by burst of high-volume interference. We can spot errors using a checksum, and recover from some minor corruption using digital error recovery.

(**) Most digital encoding and transmission schemes are *far* more complex than this though :-)

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Re: VCD's

Also India - the online store I buy my Hindi movies from has almost every movie in both DVD and VCD formats, except for those which are ONLY in VCD.

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Boffin

Re: VCD's, etc (@RAMChYLD, others)

Ah, yes. The Reel Magic. It was an ISA half-width full height card, right? My mom fell hook, line and sinker for it and actually bought one for our PC before we bought our Thompson 3-disc jukebox.

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Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

@AC Yes, a complete typo - in fact reading it back I'm sure it's been tampered with!

@theodore Actually not worth that much and easily obtained after a quick google :(

@Michael Strorm Thank you for your succinct explanation of how analogue video can be stored in a laser readable format. Of course this is something I could easily have googled... but for years it bugged me I didn't know the precise answer. But when my daughter asks the question some time in the future, I'll be Grampa Simpson shouting 'Maaatlooock!' at the TV...

Interesting discussion nonthelemaaatloooock!

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Re: VCD's

@Michael Dunn

I do, if memory serves wasnt that part of an interactive project with the BBC?

I seem to remember reading somewhere that there was a BBC Master hooked up to a LaserDisc drive, probably due to the amount memory needed to store so much data.

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Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

I did not mean to imply it was not digital, sorry for not making that more clear. Just pointing out another LD oddity.

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Re: Laserdisc *is* analogue

Fair enough then. I stand corrected!

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Anonymous Coward

Ah memories...

My boss in 2005: "Should we get on this Second Life thing? I keep getting asked why we're not on it by Analysts".

Me: "No, its fucking rubbish". You never get credit for the dodged bullets do you? On the other hand I owned a Newton :(

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Re: Ah memories...

At big blue in about 2005 we were advised from on high that we should be holding meetings in the second life office (rather than use conference calls etc), and be taking part in the new virtual world.

I wonder how much they paid for that island?

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Re: Ah memories...

I attended a conference in Galway where there were various speakers talking about the future of the internet - semantic web etc. One speaker quite seriously believed that Second Life was going to replace the internet, that companies should be building out a presence on Second Life. I thought he was delusional.

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Re: Ah memories...

I wonder if that boss is still around and now berating his staff because the company is not on Facebook?

Same shit, different year.....

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Re: Ah memories...

IIRC IBM had 4 private islands that had public access, that size of land amounted at the time to a front payment of $4500 plus a monthly fee of 4x$299 = $1196. They may have as many hidden regions too.

I bet they paid a lot more on staffing alone (providing content for the islands, which I remember was done through SL contractors - really the smartest option ; and populating the islands with at least a couple PR employees).

I had 5 such islands at some point. SL was never more than a game to me, and a lucrative one at that - it paid me a brand new car. I bailed out when Linden Labs announced it'd enforce both US federal regulations on sexualized content and casino games, and the EU's VAT to all european players.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah memories...

I think I attended one very similar. Lots of big consulting firms marketing droids were there trying to say that people were living in second life, and that the property "value" would keep going up. They could only really reference one woman who bought up a load of land when SL first came on line that she then rented out to people. All in all it was bonkers. Can you imagine if the boss said - right chaps, need you all to have a level 80 tank/dps/healer so that we can have Raid-Meetings.

oh rly.

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FAIL

Re: Ah memories...

I used to work in IT for a major media company. At the time they were laying off thousands of people, "offshoring" others and we couldn't even get budget for the most critical of infrastructure they spent thousands of pounds hiring people to staff a "virtual news room" in Second Life. Those were sensible investment priorities, eh?

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Re: Ah memories...

"I wonder if that boss is still around and now berating his staff because the company is not on Facebook? Same shit, different year....."

The difference is that people do at least use Facebook at a level matching the hype (much as I dislike it personally).

OTOH, even at its peak, the media obsession with Second Life far, *far* outweighed the number of people who ever actually used it.

Its prominence was probably because it fitted a cool-looking cyberpunk vision of the future and was suited to self-publicising navel-gazing from the few who actually did take part. This would explain its appeal to TV and media journalists who were worried about being seen as out of touch and missing the next big tech thing. They wanted to get there first.

But actual real-world even-my-Granny-is-on-it levels of popularity? It never even got close.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Ah memories...

I think I attended one very similar. Lots of big consulting firms marketing droids were there trying to say that people were living in second life, and that the property "value" would keep going up...

Ahh, yeah. Second Life. One of those things that was all the rage, and suddenly disappeared without a trace. At the Web design studio where I was working, almost everybody was on it, and wouldn't shut the hell up about it, and kept pestering me to get into it (kind of like Farcebook now).

Also... am I the only one here who reads these reminiscences about buying "land" on Second Life and thinks of the 1920s Florida real-estate bubble?

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Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

There were soon plenty of third-party apps available for it, including (IIRC) a first-person shooter.

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Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

I had a satellite tracker on mine :-)

//worked a treat!

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Boffin

Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

Not to mention a limited DBA app for off-site Sybase monitoring. I owned three Palm Pilots all told, and never regretted it.

(There was also a bridge [the card game] and a rogue app, which of course I never used on company time.)

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Happy

Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

Still use a Zire 71 as calculator, backgammon and chess player. Tethered to my old SE K750 used to connect to the net, sent email, etc. Even took pix. Superb machine, unbreakable OS.

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Happy

Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

Ditto - still using a Tungsten E. It's on its third battery but it's trivial to replace. Keeps my contacts (about 200) and accounts/passwords (about 250 business and 100 personal); that's all I use it for, but it does those jobs suberbly well. The data is backed up and accessible from the Palm Desktop. I have a few bits of info on my iPhone 4 but a touch keyboard is nowhere near as good as a stylus and Graffiti. Oh, and I've re-soldered the on/off button about twice.

Phil.

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Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

And there was this nifty news fetching/storing app - can't recall its name... Anyone?

Anyway, it meant you could easily read all the news pages you wanted on the tube. Proper text layout and size, no (few) ads and no net required.

Not so easy to do that 15 years later....

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Re: Palm Pilot never tried to be anything more than a digital diary and contacts list.

wasn't it called AvantGo! ?

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Mushroom

Secondlife Is still Alive.

Its not for everyone, but there are new users signing up daily. I understand how some people have no imagination or need to be directed on what to do, and if that is the case then SL is not for you, stick to the kiddie games like world of warcrack, or similar titles where you know what is expected of you and little imagination is required. I think the biggest fail for secondlife is the steep learning curve and lack of advertising. I have been in it for over 5 years and have no intention of quitting any time soon.

So, go there, join now. I know none of you have lives in the real world. You are here, reading this aren't you?

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Re: Secondlife Is still Alive.

I can get away with reading the reg at work, not so much an immersive 3d environment....

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Re: Secondlife Is still Alive.

The main fail of SL is it is shit (as pointed out further up thread). The only people that are still there are complete saddos who are trying to convince themselves that it will become relevant again.

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Re: Secondlife Is still Alive.

Why so judgemental, Andrew Moore? People do all sorts of things and have all sorts of hobbies that they personally enjoy. They participate because it gives them enjoyment, not from some attempt to be "relevant".

For example, I simply can't get my head round football fans. I don't call them saddos though - why should it bother me what they do?

Likewise, many people still refer to people who have any interest in technology as "saddos" and "nerds". Which makes your comments all the more ironic.

Live and let live, and vive la difference, I say .

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Re: Secondlife Is still Alive.

Secondlife is all very well as a hobby, but in the mid-noughties people were seriously touting it as a new navigation paradigm. I was contacted by a headhunter asking me to flog e-commerce storefronts for it. Coming from a gaming as well as an e-commerce background, I took one look and ran a mile.

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Happy

Re: Secondlife Is still Alive.

@Andrew Moore: again?!

"...who are trying to convince themselves that it will become relevant." Fixed that for you.

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Re: Secondlife Is still Alive. @Andrew Moore

Exactly, I did spend time in SL, and I did build things.. BUT the limiting factor was the finance side of things, you had to pay to upload files.. so your main source of content, which would be students and the un-employed looking for an escape, i.e. people with little money, can't get into the content creating...

Plus the SL viewer was shite and last I tried it, still is shite!

I love the idea though, of a virtual world you can visit for a bit of R&R, a pre-cursor to holodecks etc.. but nah.. not good enough to keep peopel interested...

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