Sony: two decades of biting bullets

Sony, of course, invented the Betamax, the original standard for home video, only to watch it die in the marketplace, outplayed by JVC’s VHS. (I wrote a brief history of said death in Vent #82 back in 1997.) While Sony continued to make Beta recorders for the US market until 1993, and for the Japanese domestic market until 2002 (!), the real watershed event was the 1988 introduction of Sony’s first VHS recorder, about which I said this:

[T]his 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.

The company at times seems almost Dylanesque — most likely, you go your way, they’ll go theirs. Yet another example of Sony gee-whiz thinking is headed for the dustbin: the ATRAC music-encoding-plus-DRM system, and the Connect music store that sold it to people with latter-day Walkman units, are history. (I have a fairly-recent Walkman, and an interface to Connect was duly provided as part of the package, but I never had occasion to use it, inasmuch as the interface would also accept ordinary MP3 and even WAV files.) Sony has unveiled new Walkman players (can we call them “Walkmen”?) that don’t use ATRAC, and Connect apparently will be gone by spring.

All of this, of course, makes me wonder what sort of weird crap Sony is planning for the PlayStation 4.


  1. Mister Snitch! »

    2 September 2007 · 10:53 am

    Sony? Baloney.

    Back in the day, used to be a “no” in there.

  2. CGHill »

    2 September 2007 · 9:20 pm

    In view of recent events, I have stuffed a few more songs onto my MP3 Walkman; it now has 740, with about 270 MB left of its original 4 GB.

    I have to admit, though, I was somewhat tempted by an HP-branded iPod offered by Woot today.

  3. Mister Snitch! »

    2 September 2007 · 10:03 pm

    I believe you can expect to find major price reductions on existing iPod models in the next few days. New models are about to be announced. Apple does not usually do the clearance sale thing but the new models should be a marked departure from existing models (think iPhone without the ‘phone’ part), therefore I expect some move to get rid of inventory.

  4. CGHill »

    3 September 2007 · 8:08 pm

    And in an effort to cram this Walkman to the max, I dropped in a few more tunes: it now holds 759, with about 85k left of the original 4 GB. The claimed capacity is 1350, but then I rip at absurd bit rates (lately I’ve been doing VBR up to 320), so I figure getting half that is probably reasonable.

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