Remember Those Disposable DVDs?

Today’s subject is the history of technology, and predictions we used to make about where we’d be today. So, if I really wanted to, I could go way back in time and write something cliché about what previous generations predicted we would have been driving by now… hovercraft,  rocket jet packs, personal spaceships, lunar rovers, out-of-body teleportation, etc. But I won’t. But still, it’s an interesting concept—talking about how far technology has come, where it was in the past, and where will be someday in the future.

Sometime around 1997, my dad and I were having a discussion about video on the Internet and the future of video rentals in general. (And when I say video, I mean VHS cassettes). So while we slowly waited for our loud, external 56K dial-up modem to connect to AOL, my dad made a bold prediction that someday in the future, consumers would be able to get online and simply “dial in” to a website to watch their favorite video online, or even download a rental that expires after 24 hours.

While I thought that was a good idea, I bet him that the Internet would never be able to handle such a massive data load and that the wave of the future in entertainment was in expiring/decaying DVDs. Remember those? Also called “DIVX” or “DVD-Ds,” or for most people, “those DVDs that only last for a day.” Airports used to have them, and the occasional kiosk at Circuit City or CompUSA were supposedly going to start carrying them as well. The idea was that you could spend three or four bucks, choose your movie, the vending machine would pop out a dark blue DVD in a paper pack, then you’d take it home and watch it once, and simply toss the super-cheap disc in the trash, because after about 24 to 48 hours the DVD would essentially self-destruct anyway.

Though it wasn’t quite mainstream yet, I was sure that this was the future of video rentals. It was so brilliant it couldn’t lose.

Well, as it turns out, I was way off and my old man was right after all. Shockingly on the mark, actually. He predicted it absolutely to the T—and I laughed at him. Just goes to show you that no matter how closely you follow technology and advances in the way we do business, you still can’t predict exactly will happen in the future. (Remember “Yahoo!“? They ruled the world, until an obscure company with an even funnier sounding name and a logo that looks like dog treats came along and yanked the rug right out from under them. That was Google.)

To this day I still think the expiring DVD was the smarter move, and I’m proud of myself for making a prediction that made sense. My prediction was based on sound evidence, market trends, an understanding of the internet’s (current) limitations, and an awareness of emerging technology. His prediction was based purely on a good idea. He simply thought “wouldn’t it be cool?” And he was right.

So fine, fine… Here we are watching Netflix on demand (streaming) and renting videos from iTunes (downloading), and I don’t think people even remember the DIVX. A quick Google search won’t reveal even so much as an image of one. (Maybe because they all expired and we threw them out!)

Whooda thunk? Oh, and while we’re on that topic, what ever happened to the Minidisc? Why didn’t that take off?

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