Laser Time – Media Formats That Failed


For every Blu-ray and MP3 that graces the eyes and ears of consumers, there are failed formats that didn’t catch on. Listen to the sad tales of 8-tracks, UMDs, and even earlier formats from the media fiends who hoard them!


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Be sure to check out our Who is the Oldest Character in the Toy Isle companion article for all dem purdy pictures!











26 thoughts on “Laser Time – Media Formats That Failed

  1. UMDs are the WORST failed media format that I’ve ever personally experienced. At least with things like HD-DVDs, Laser Discs, Betamax, etc. they’re equivalent in some sense to the technology that failed, so you can understand how someone thought they could work. But UMDs were just an immediate WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA to create such a bizarre and small game/ movie storage system that could only work in a very specific instance and would be hella expensive for consumers. I am beyond glad that they died out and it’s a big part of the reason why I have played way more DS and 3DS games than PSP.

    1. UMDs are a bad idea now but back then they provided more storage space than a DS cartridge, which was needed with the higher technical quality of games on PSP. Flash storage wasn’t as inexpensive as it is now. I was not a fan of them either mainly because of the drain on battery but Sony wanted the PSP to play movies as well as games, to do that they needed something like the UMD.

  2. My aunt has these things called Capacitance Electronic Disc or CED for short. They are these cool record sized plastic cartridges that have a physical record inside of a movie. The record is sensitive to dust so you slip the cartridge into the machine and pull it back out to remove the record. There is a physical needle, again like a record, that reads the disc and sends the signal to the TV. They are pretty cheap and I’d like to start collecting them.

  3. You’d be surprised just how alive BetaMax is thanks to news stations choosing it back in the 80s. Up until a few years ago, the one I work at was still doing video content on them; which means we still have a bunch of very good condition Beta players and recorders. Hell, I had to use one to record 28 minutes of paid programming just a few weeks ago.

  4. The widescreen Simpsons really ticks me off because whenever they’re watching something on TV within the show, such as Itchy & Scratchy or a Kent Brockman report, they show the full frame and it looks fantastic just long enough to remind you of how butchered everything else is.

  5. Grats you guys on getting your first real advertisement!

    And yeah, I got the music choice.

  6. Bringing this discussion to Anime I always enjoyed the episode of Cowboy Bebop where Spike finds a Betamax tape and that was where I was taught enough information to make me aware of the dead format. That and knowing that Al Bundy had one in Married with Children.

    1. Another anime connection to a dead format: the Digital Audio Tape player that Shinji was always listening to in Evangelion. They retconned that a bit in Rebuild by saying it was a gift from his father.

  7. My dad was an early LaserDisc adopter. It was such a novelty to have skippable chapters, so they would number and describe every chapter on the back of the packaging. For example the Jurassic Park LaserDisc says

    Side A
    1. Monster in a Box
    2. Some Questions About the Park
    3. The Diggers
    4. The Tale of the Six-Foot Turkey

    You can see it also says “Side A,” “Side B” because they often couldn’t fit the whole movie on a single disc; you’d have to flip it over halfway through, or sometimes put in a 2nd disc.

    My dad ended up being a really late DVD adopter, because he got burnt by LaserDisc and wanted to make sure DVD wasn’t another passing fad.

    1. they used to do that with DVDs for a while as well. with little inserts inside the case. Sometimes it would be in the chapter select screen.

  8. MiniDisc was pretty popular in Japan. part of this was that you could rent music CDs over there so people would just rip the CDs and put music on the re-writeable minidisc. Once MP3 players came along, this became less of a feature.

    Pixlevision is one of the most interesting formats. Used on the Fisher-Price PXL-2000, it allowed you to record black and white, low res video on an audio cassette tape!!

    Check the commercial for it :

  9. Reminded me of my RCA Lyra and Ireaver pre ipod digital media players that held a whopping 256 megabites of data yo!

  10. Although not quite a failed medium, VCD (video compact disc) were super popular in some Asian countries. Although the video quality was not great, it was a good alternative to VHS which will wear down constant playback. However, VCD never caught on here in the States.

    There were also SVCD (super video compact disc) which allowed better video and audio quality; however, due to space limitation of a CD, about 30-35 minutes of video could fit onto a single disc. Similar to SVCD, there was also CVD (China video disc) which used a different resolution than SVCD. CVD used 352 x 480 which is one half the resolution of a full DVD resolution (720 x 480).

  11. A physical 4K format is pretty inevitable. Pretty much every movie is produced in 4K 6K or 8K now.

  12. DIVX, the opponent format to DVD, was pretty scary at the time. They were optical discs that quit working after a few days. Several movie studios were really behind DIVX.

  13. Just a note on this episode: After the last ad break, I didn’t know you’d come back. Hearing the Thirty Twenty Ten intro was really disorienting and I thought I was still in a clip.

    I bet you don’t need any tips, but y’know… maybe cut to silent for a sec, or have an all-aboard-lets-go clip or something.

  14. I recently had to throw out my family’s old Betamax player when my parents moved away…. also found Beta copies I’d made of Project A-ko and Akira!

  15. Came to check this podcast out after hearing it name-dropped on Retronauts. You guys are funny, but I haven’t even been able to make it through the whole episode because I’ve lost track of the mistakes.

    Just off the top of my head:

    Early records (which go back to the 1920s and did include commercially available releases) were not on vinyl, they were on shellac, spinning at 78 RPM (more or less, speeds varied from maker to maker). Vinyl records took off in the 40s, but shellac records didn’t die completely until the 1960s.

    LPs degrade by repeated playing, just like tape or CDs. The difference is that they don’t just naturally degrade, like a tape or CD. So if you find a box of old LPs, they’ll sound good as new after a quick dusting, while a tape or CD will have degraded a bit.

    Discovision = Laserdisc. Additionally, laserdiscs are an analog video format with digital audio.

    CED could fit entire movies on them no problem. Just like laserdisc, you had to flip them. The problem with CED is that it was fragile as hell and skipped like crazy.

    Beta tapes could easily fit a movie onto a single tape.

    The $50,000 tape player you’re talking about is the Quadruplex. That was for broadcasting and never for “rich people,” nothing was ever commercially released for it.

    MiniDisc was very successful in Japan. Additionally, MiniDiscs are not just little CDs in plastic cases, they read the music as data, there are no tracks. This allows for instantaneous random track selection with no pause between tracks. Something a lot of CD players still can’t do. Also, format’s not dead. You can still buy blank ones and players.

    And the HD video of NYC you’re talking about was put on the Internet thanks to Techmoan, so give credit next time.

    I know you’re just having fun, but a lot of these things could be double-checked with just a quick google search, or you could get an expert on to talk about it. In this episode you talk about how podcasts have replaced DVD special features, but as evident here, that’s obviously not the case. DVD special features often have fact-checkers.

  16. Again, you guys are really funny and this is a great podcast. So sorry if my comments were excessively negative. This is kind of my pet peeve that’s all.

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