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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Video killed the writing star

Back in the early days of the Internet, when people would wait forever while a snippet of video downloaded over their brutally slow 56K dial-up connections, being able to watch live action was quite the novelty. What is my most egregious example of this?

Sappy kid, Jar-Jar...don't care; it was awesome

I was living in the Middle East in the build up to the release of Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Our X-boys were just coming to an age when they would appreciate an awesome space opera. I had entered my late teens on the heels of the original Star Wars film now (somewhat confusingly) known as Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope. Back in the day, all you had to say was,"Star Wars," and people knew what you meant.

Introducing our own little next generation to Star Wars was one of the small but exciting milestones I recall from the X-boys' childhood. Episode I is listed as having a running time of 136 minutes. I spent longer that that downloading the 2-minute original trailer (see above) for us to watch on our 17" cathode ray tube. Compare that to today. I searched YouTube, found the trailer, clicked on the link and the video began playing immediately. I enjoyed watching it on my 24" flat panel LCD in HD - that's high definition for you laggards. What a difference fourteen years can make.

Twenty years before that, The Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star bemoaned the transition from the days of radio to television. 

Understood the sentiment; never cared much for the song

Fittingly, MTV launched it's ground-breaking music video programming on August 1, 1981 by playing the Buggles' paean to the golden age of radio. But whatever MTV accomplished - or not, depending on your point of view - they may have unwittingly began the slow demise of the written word in addition to the spoken (or sung) word without the accompaniment of images.

Rumor has it, the 'M' used to stand for Music

As the World Wide Web (does anyone call it that anymore?) expanded from text-based sites that geeks used to host online games of Zork, I enjoyed browsing around and finding interesting material to read. With a simple bookmark in my Netscape Navigator window (thank you Mark), I could tag stuff and come back to peruse worthy articles at my leisure.

Fast forward to today. Netscape is gone, replaced by Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and others. And also on the way out, if my browsing results are any indication, are text-based articles. Oh sure, there are still millions - probably billions - of text articles on the Internet; but little by little, I'm noticing a shift to video.  It's starting small with a hyperlink click followed by a big, square box that is the video lead...with text underneath. Pretty soon, more and more of our search results are going to be videos; and then where will we be?
Radio - or the ever-present media player - allows us to listen to music and do other things. MTV forced us to watch. It's hard to pay attention to a music video and concentrate on other tasks because you have to watch the video. I'm afraid the Internet may be going down that same path. "It" is trying to capture our attention, just like MTV did back in 1981.

In the words of Rockwell - or more accurately Michael Jackson - it always feels like somebody's watching me. Or maybe that's just what they want us to think...

What do you think?


1 comment:

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