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Media, Technology Sectors Search For New Recording Medium
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SILICON VALLEY - In a lab on the fifteenth floor of a gleaming, mirrored high-rise, the shape of your next child's copy of Beauty and the Beast is being debated. Literally. "DVD is so passe'," quipped engineer Tony Arbluko, "And forget 'digital recording'. I guarantee we'll give you something on the next-gen system that'll leave your Tivo feeling like a BetaCord."

One item on the table, and covering most of it, is the sprawling innards of a device the gurus here call "Janet". "This little gem will hold twenty-five standard length movies on one cube of gelatin," said Arbluko, "She uses thirty-three argon lasers to read data written into the wobble of electrons in the hydrogen atoms suspended in the mix." Arbluko's tour of the room included three other working concepts for recording and playback, including one based on bacon. "Don't laugh," he warned, "Bacon has recording properties that magnetics can't even touch."

Looking at the concept devices, one can't help but wonder what drives companies to develop more and more ways to do the same thing. Do we need twenty-five movies suspended in a cube of Jell-O? Do we want to watch Kevin Bacon played back on Canadian Bacon? What would be the harm in letting us all get used to DVD's?

"The harm would be -- no innovation," said Panasonic CEO Don Iwatani, "Without change, you have no movement in technology. You have the same thing, day after day. No improvement. VHS gave way to more durable DVD. DVD will give way to longer-recording-time in another medium. That one will give way to some other innovation. It's progress."

"This is exactly what is wrong with the world," said consumer advocate Terry Trippler, "We're never satisfied with what we have. We can't sit back and enjoy our copy of 'Groundhog Day' because in the back of our minds we have to ask if it wouldn't be better in HDTV."

Arbluko hopes to have at least one device marketable by early 2005. "Personally, I hope it's the bacon one," he said, "I hate Jell-O."
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