Wednesday, July 30, 2008

As I eat my sandwich, I ask. What happened to Betamax?




The Sandwich hit "Betamax" I first heard on RJ 100.3 FM (well he really does "bridge generations") and was then followed by a Petula Clark staple of weddings hit. I saw the "Betamax" video on Myx. For nostalgia trippers, this video is a bit funny. I was only in grade 4 when we had our first VCR, a humongous Betamax that my Dad brought home from Japan. It ran on 100 volts so Dad was very strict. He commanded that the machine be plugged only to a 5 kg voltage regulator that came with the machine.

Those were the dark days of Martial rule and Ninoy Aquino was beginning to campaign from his cell. Dad had a bit of a difficult time to bring in the damned machine through customs. Marcos and his intelligence apparatus had apparently recognized the subversive possibilities of the VCR. But it would be 5 years at least before his fears were realized. By then it was too late

Nonetheless, I remember that day when the Betamax was unpacked. I was circumcised (on an out patient basis) the day before. That afternoon I was at home. Dad and my uncle were the only ones to figure out how to operate the machine (They both studied or spent time in Japan). Obviously the operating manual was in Japanese.

My uncle put on the first video movie I saw. He put on a soft core porn tape (which apparently came with the machine!). Since newly circumcised boys are considered "men" I could see why the movie was played.

I had my first circumcised erection that day! Since newly circumcised boys traditionally wear loose trousers, imagine the embarassment that entailed!

Later on a cottage industry would arise where porn tapes were sold in Beta format.

So much for that. According to Wikipedia, the Video format wars (Beta vs. VHS) is taught in marketing class as a classic example of technological rivalry. Sony which introduced Betamax thought that people would just record TV shows. JVC which placed its bet on VHS thought that people would rent home videos. With the home video market surging in the 1990s, Betamax was buried. But contrary to popular conception, Betamax was technically superior. But that is moot now. Everyone can buy digital movies online.

My freshie students have no idea what a Betamax (or even a VHS) was or is. So I directed them to see the library's video collection. There was a shark docu on Betamax and that's why the Library still has the machine. But I was told that the library will eventually convert the videotapes into DVD. Sic transit Gloria Mundi! The end of Beta and VHS is at hand.

Anyway the Betamax Sandwich video was funny. Well I lived and survived the time when "Wala pang Myx, MTV, iPod, MP3, Internet, text etc" But since I lived overseas for some years, I only learned the factoid about "anak ni Ka Freddie kinalaban ni Edru Abraham" This probably happened when I was living in Australia! Identity Crisis? I have heard their songs but I can't really connect.

The worse example of my technological disconnect is when I made fun of texters when I first arrived from overseas. Now I can't live without texting.

I know about "Jingle"magazine. My "ate" has the complete collection from issue 1 in mint condition! Truly a child of the 70s, she learned how to play the guitar using this music mag. It is no wonder she took her music degree at UP and ended up as a music teacher.

So I can commensurate with the freshies who can't connect with a Betamax. But there are ways to do it. Our Betamax still works notwithstanding my sister plugging it into a 220 volt socket. (Dad had it repaired and converted to 220 volts). We still have Japanese tapes of the Ninoy assassination testimonies. These tapes subverted the Marcos regime as well as Xerox did.

3 comments:

Jego said...

Marcos and his intelligence apparatus had apparently recognized the subversive possibilities of the VCR...

And they were right. Marcos banned Lino Brocka's Oro Pro Nobis but the movie was distributed throughout the Philippines via Betamax.

As for the VHS vs. Beta format wars, I read somewhere that Beta's fate was sealed when the porn industry chose VHS over Beta. Today's format wars between BluRay and HD-DVD is still a toss-up as the American porn industry has chosen HD-DVD while major studios seem to be leaning towards BluRay.

blackshama said...

Thanks Jego. Porn can really make or break the market. Yes I recall when I was in high school, US porn was on VHS and Pinoy porn was on Beta!

Subversion still continues. Piracy is a form of subversion not against a political dictator,but against the intellectual property dictators!

DJB Rizalist said...

for some reason I think HD DVD will win in the end...just a feeling,nothing to do with the porn thing...sony is just too advanced for its own good.