I am fully willing to admit that I have a fascination with outdated physical media formats that might border on obsession.
And in a day and age where both Sony and Microsoft are launching new video game consoles that feature entirely digital, disc drive-less models, it’s one of those things that’s going to increasingly date me. Like the way my grandparents used to refer to comic books as funny books.
Yes, in the year 2020, it looks like the days of DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs and their ilk are numbered.
Now, there are pros and cons to an all-digital future. Nearly universal access to just about anything you could ever want? Pro. Onerous digital rights management? Con. Virtually no physical storage space required? Pro. The fact that historical preservation of certain works almost is guaranteed to fail? Con.
But, as someone whose basement is filled with such wonderfully acronym’d things as UMDs (Universal Media Disc), VCDs (Video Compact Disc), VHS tapes (Video Home System), GD-ROMs (Gigabit Disc Read-Only Memory) and DVDs (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc), I find the concept vaguely distressing.
After all, am I ever going to match the thrill of finding a beat up DVD copy of “Return to Horror High” while thrift shopping? I must admit, it’s always fun looking through the insane B-movie melange that’s available on Amazon Prime Video, but it just lacks something tactile.
On the other hand, I have more stacks of 3.5-inch floppy discs — you know, the kind that aren’t floppy at all — than any sane person should.
Heck, I even found some 5.25-inch floppy discs — moderately floppy — that theoretically should contain a full original copy of “Patton Strikes Back: The Battle of the Bulge.” And yet, there’s nary a disc drive nor computer in the vicinity that can accept them.
So, maybe there’s something to be said for curtailing such hording — cough — excuse me, collecting tendencies. After all, is there really much difference between the public domain books I had downloaded to floppy disc as a novelty in 1994 and the ones I have on my phone courtesy of Project Gutenberg?
In the end, I have to say that there is a difference. And it’s almost entirely based on that tactile feeling of holding a piece of media, noting the imperfections in the packaging or the sharp, musty odor of old video tapes.
It’s that physical connection that develops the strongest memories and bond. Watching “Jurassic Park” on Netflix is one of the most convenient things in the world, but it can never compare to that childhood VHS copy that survived a flooded basement and multiple brushes with sticky-fingered children.
So, I will continue to reap the benefits of both physical and digital media, looking warily toward a future where my physical movie collection will be an anachronism.
There is hope in an all-digital
future, though. After all, who wants to relive the long national nightmare that was the Zip Disk?