27 November 2005
It's that age thing
One of my coworkers, we'll call him Dan, came up with this unknowing gem today.
Dan: Would you take a look at this video tape? I think it's prohibited for sale on the site.
Me: Sure, send me the link. (Remember, I work for A Cool Company. Details will be, to protect my
Me: So, umm, why do you think this is prohibited? I don't see anything unusual.
Dan: Well, that beta comment threw me.
I search the text again. There it is, in big black letters.
Me: Dan, beta is a format. Like VHS. This tape is just really old.
Poor Dan. It could just as well have been on one of Edison's cylinders; it was that far removed from his existence. And small-b beta, nowadays, means something wholly different.
And no, I don't think the change in the vernacular hastened the format's decline; the appearance of Beta inventor Sony's first VHS machine in 1988 one of which I have, in fact probably sealed the deal, and a lot more people in 1988 were worried about home video than about computer software development.
I will mention in passing that this particular Sony machine, which offered a weird 15-year clock, would literally time-stamp a recording: you set the timer, the program records, you rewind, and there are the recording details at the beginning, right on the tape. Great for archivists, and for practically no one else on earth. This is the sort of gee-whiz thinking at Sony that brought us simulated digital frame grabs (on a late-Eighties Beta machine I still have), a clock-radio that requires half a dozen button operations to change the alarm time (which I bought and now deeply regret), and now CDs that hijack your operating system. It's almost enough to make one say kind things about Microsoft. (Now there's some Ruthless People.)Posted at 10:53 AM to General Disinterest , PEBKAC