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Date:      Thu, 18 Nov 1999 02:28:08 +0000 (GMT)
From:      Terry Lambert <tlambert@primenet.com>
To:        davids@webmaster.com (David Schwartz)
Cc:        tlambert@primenet.com, dscheidt@enteract.com, jcm@dogma.freebsd-uk.eu.org, erickw@taurus.oursc.k12.ar.us, freebsd-chat@FreeBSD.ORG
Subject:   Re: Judge: "Gates Was Main Culprit"
Message-ID:  <199911180228.TAA25734@usr08.primenet.com>
In-Reply-To: <000001bf30b5$b82c5470$021d85d1@youwant.to> from "David Schwartz" at Nov 16, 99 08:39:22 pm

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> > You guys need to look into the relative merits of these two
> > technologies before you argue about them.  Beta is a vastly
> > superior technology when compared to VHS,
> 
> How is it superior?

Picture quality and resolution.

> Picture quality?

Yes, and other factors, such as it being less likely to jam,
given the tape path and load mechanism.  Betamax (sic) machines
that I used never "ate tapes".  It's a relatively common
occurance with VHS.


> If picture quality is so all-important, why did SuperVHS fail?

SuperVHS addressed an issue with chroma that simply did not
matter in NTSC countries.  In PAL countries, it was more of
an issue, but since the data was modulated into an NTSC carrier
between the television and the recorder in the US, and since
the over-the-air and even cable broadcasts already had the
chroma problems because of the NTSC standard, there was really
no improvement in quality.  Julian will be happy to tell you
at length about PAL vs. NTSC, and why PAL countries call NTSC
"Never Twice the Same Colour".


> Actually, VHS is far superior thanks to the larger cassette
> allowing longer recording times.

Recording times are a matter of tape length, which is in turn a
matter of tape thickness.  In fact, VHS tapes can not be as thin
as Betamax tapes, due to the poorer VHS loading mechanism.

The reason Betamax recording times historically lagged behind
those of VHS are a function of:

1)	Variable head rates on VHS getting lower and lower
	over time, and those settings getting "standardized"
	into VCR's.

2)	Betamax tape technology did not have the financial
	thrust behind it because of the initial lack of software
	making it a smaller overall machine market (much in the
	same way FreeBSD doesn't have FrameMaker available for it).

To address your question from another posting, "why do people turn
their tape speed to the slowest (sic) speed?", the answer is that
they do so to get longer recording times, since the head rotation
rate stays constant, and thus the scan stripes are written closer
together on the slower moving tape as it sweeps past.

NB:	MacroVision(tm) copy protection works based on supressing
	the vertical blanking interval such that a tape-to-tape
	copy has annoying high-low-high-low brightness.  This is
	based on an artifact of the flying VHS write head, and is
	the reason you can buy GenLock-like devices that fix the
	problem, as well as two deck spindle-synced VCRs.

The reason the slower speed does not bother these people is
directly attributable to how clean their source signal is; if you
are recording broadcast television in the US, in which 50% of the
population lives within 50 miles of a coast, and the other half
lives in what is, in effect, very rural areas with few closely
located, non-repeated television transmitters, then you won't
really have very much less quality in your recording anyway.

People with digital television (satellite or cable), or even analog
cable generally get used to such high quality pictures (not ever
seeing "sparklies" -- whiteout dots) that they do _not_ use such
settings, because the resulting recording is unbearable to watch.


> Both VHS and Beta exceed broadcast quality.

They do not.  Broadcast television recording has the same issues
with vertical blanking interval synchronization and noise acting
to suppress the effective vertical blank space that affect VHS
VCR to VCR recording, without spindle sync.  Even without an
intentional supression of the vertical blanking as a means of
"copy protection", the effect is pronounced enough for most
broadcast television that one can tell the difference in the lower
quality of the recordings.

Even ignoring this, the rotating record head is away from the
tape media for longer than the vertical blanking interval, and
that means that you get a 1.5 reduction in frame rate.  This
reduction in frame rate is even more noticible because of
horizontal retrace in PAL vs. NTSC.

The result is that the 525 lines of vertical resolution are reduced
to 200 for VHS, 400 for SuperVHS


> And, in fact, in comparisons of the two formats, about as many
> reviewers preferred Beta as preferred VHS.

I can't argue this, because I don't know:

1)	What reviews you were referencing

2)	Whether your reviewers were average slack-jawed TV
	viewers, or discerning intellectuals


> > and "VHS vs. Beta" is actually _the_ standard argument put
> > forward during "Why The Best Technology Does Not Always Win"
> discussions.
> 
> Yes, and amusingly, the best standard did win, despite Sony's powerful
> marketing and head start in the market.

You have slyly changed this from "best technology" to "best
standard"; one could easily argue from that point of view that
VHS was a "better" standard from non-technological grounds,
such as the fact that the purveyors of VHS were able to license
movies for release on VHS, while at the same time prohibiting
their release on BetaMax, via contract.  This was technically
an anticompetitive practice, such as Microsofts application
division is guilty of by providing IE for HP/UX, but not for
the obviously larger market segment, Linux.


> > The market _did_ in fact lock us into an inferior standard.
> 
> Bullshit. Plain and simple bullshit. This is really an urban
> legend borne out of motivational speakers looking for examples.
> There is no actual research to back it up, and in back the
> research points the other way.

See:

	http://www.v-i-t.com/CFM/cctv.cfm
	http://www.video-pro.co.uk/world.htm
	http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Dimension/5391/bt.html
	http://ww.urova.fi/home/pranta/usvidfaq.htm

As for "urban legends", while I disagree that the quality is
not discernable (perhaps "a recording of US broadcast TV in a
poor reception area" will qualify as "a sensitive instrument"
in your book?), the urban legends have been on you part, and
we can start with the claim that Sony refused to license Betamax;
see:

	http://www.urbanlegends.com/products/beta_vs_vhs.html

BTW, the lack of betamax software has more to do with the
chilling effect of the lawsuit by Universal and Disney against
Sony.  Sound familiar to any of you Linux and FreeBSD people?


					Terry Lambert
					terry@lambert.org
---
Any opinions in this posting are my own and not those of my present
or previous employers.


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