Tracing Twenty Years of Home Entertainment
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Sep 2, 2012

Tracing Twenty Years of Home Entertainment

The last 20 years have seen a rapid evolution of the way the public is entertained at home. As world-changing as the concept of home video was, it was still just an extension of the entertainment technology which had come before: movies on network and cable television.
The format of VHS initially won the “format wars” as the preferred format, and it was chosen for cheapness and convenience. These days, for anyone under the age of 25, the world of home video in the 1990s probably seems absurd. You had to drive to the video store, and choose from their limited selection. Most stores had primarily new releases and a smaller selection of older films. If the movie was a new release, you usually had the option of renting it for a couple of days or buying it at an outrageous markup. The movie would somehow come down in price after a few months.
You had the rented tapes for a short period before having to return them so you wouldn’t face a steep penalty. At the time, video stores were common, from huge chains to local operations, but they all functioned similarly and with few exceptions the selections were not that great.
Things began to change in 1996 with the advent of consumer DVD. The closest thing prior to DVDs in 1998 was Laserdisc. Available since the 1980s, Laserdiscs were the size of vinyl LPs and often involved purchasing prohibitively expensive players, and the discs themselves were costly and unwieldy. Laserdiscs were considered to be the domain of a small segment of hobbyists, even if they did offer the advantages that DVDs would later: high-definition widescreen picture, chapter selections, and extra features like trailers and commentary.
With DVDs in the late 90s, these features came in a CD-sized package at an affordable price. Since the DVD started to take over, home entertainment technology started to improve in order to keep up: televisions became exclusively widescreen within a few years, with most having high-definition capabilities. In 2003, DVD surpassed VHS as the dominant home video format in the US, and VHS tapes are no longer made by major studios.
Since being introduced in 2006, Blu Ray has become the dominant home video format in Japan, the same market where DVDs were introduced and led the market. Since then this super high-definition and high-quality format has taken hold in the rest of the world, and is set to supplant DVDs entirely within the near future. Blu Ray discs hold more information than DVDs, presenting a higher quality image. This exciting new format is taking over the world as the preferred way to watch entertainment at home.

Guest Author Bio: Patrick Whalen is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @2patwhalen.