The week that was 5 years ago: Sony previews blue laser optical discs

Taking a look back, five years ago this week…

The week that was 5 years ago: Sony previews blue laser optical discs

Among calls for the breakup of BT, reactions to the Time-Warner AOL merger and the US states of California and Arizona deciding to conduct the November Presidential elections online, Sony stood out at the centre of a couple of stories…

Sony showcases DVR-Blue prototype

At a time when the tussles between Blu-ray and HD DVD are constantly making the news, it is interesting to see Sony’s initial moves towards what would become the Blu-ray format. At the CEATEC 2000 show in Tokyo, Sony and Philips showed off their next-generation, blue laser optical disks for the first time.

Sony’s DVR-Blue system (pictured) recorded data using a special GaN blue diode laser and its optical disk had a single-side capacity of 22.5Gb. One disk could record up to two hours of HDTV quality broadcast but for present TV quality the disk could store eight hours of footage. The writer used MPEG2 and could record and playback at 24Mb/sec. Sony, however, said that the device was only a trial prototype and was not for marketing.

PlayStation 2 is hacked

On 10 October 2000 we reported that the PlayStation 2 had been hacked. This wasn’t anything resembling the Trojan currently stalking Sony’s PSP consoles, but was a reference to a mod-chip that had surfaced in Asia to foil the PS2 mod lock out. The new chip re-enabled the SCPH-1000 swap trick and enabled the machine to run bootleg games and software from overseas.

Of course, the repercussions of such modding are still in the news, with an Australian court only last week finding that ‘chipping’ machines did not in fact break the country’s copyright laws – Sony loses PlayStation modding battle.

Charging Internet transactions

Also in this week five years, there’s also a distant glimpse of how the telco companies wished the Web would evolve. A plan was being considered by one of the world’s biggest telecom companies to levy a charge on every Internet-based commercial transaction made over its wires.

AT&T was considering charging Internet retailers each time a customer bought something over its broadband network. It also declared it might additionally collect a fee from retailers each time a customer accesses their site through its network… In its dreams.

Who would risk shopping on the Internet?

Another interesting story reflecting the time period was news of the Trading Standards Institute panning the quality of Internet shopping. It condemned shopping on the Internet as being slower, more expensive and involving more hassle than the high street.

In a survey in which test purchases were made from 102 companies, the TSI found that 38 per cent of orders did not arrive on time and that 17 per cent failed to materialise. There were incidences of companies taking the money and then vanishing, charging extortionate delivery fees and delivering damaged goods.

Furthermore, one in four companies failed to use secure servers for transactions, leaving customers’ details vulnerable to hackers, while others failed to publish their name or address and other consumer rights.

It’s easy to forget how accustomed we have become to online shopping, even if it is still not perfect.

Etch-A-Sketch

Finally, on Friday the 13th October 2000 we declared: That’s no Etch-A-Sketch, that’s my WebPAD. Looking like a proto Tablet PC or a supersize PDA, Honeywell’s WebPAD was a new device to let you surf the Internet, send and receive email, and enter information via the wireless touch screen display, as long as you stayed within 150 feet of the base station with a broadband Internet connection. With a touch-screen display, the device weighed under three pounds, was an inch thick and had the dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper. Ahead of its time, at the time.

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