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15 Apr, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's been just over five years since Warner Home Video issued its first domestic batch of DVD releases in seven "test" cities, and already some of those early discs seem like relics.

Remember the "flipper" disc? Long movies like Goodfellas and Seven had to be turned over if you wanted to watch the entire film. Now, of course, studios use higher-density discs, but in the good not-so-old days that wasn't the case — just about everything came out on DVD-5s, with a maximum capacity of 135 minutes. Many of those old discs are no longer on the market, replaced by newer, sleeker models that don't have to be flipped.

I don't miss the flipper, but I do miss English-language subtitles on all discs. Now a lot of studios are beginning to eliminate English subtitles, in large part because so many of the "Region 1" discs manufactured for use in the United States are winding up in foreign markets like France where release dates traditionally lag.

It's not that I'm hard of hearing, it's that I'm obsessive about hearing everything that gets said and with two toddlers at home I typically have to backtrack every three or four minutes to pick up some dialog one of the little dears blabbed over. With subtitles, I don't have that problem. Chatter away!

Eclectic packaging is also rapidly becoming a thing of the past. When DVD first came out Universal and Columbia TriStar packaged their discs in CD-size jewel cases, a concept I initially liked but later grew to loathe as the maid kept filing the little things away with my CDs.

Now everything's the same size. I only wish every studio used the plastic "keep case" (the variant with the soft-plastic, two-piece hub that doesn't break off). I love the folks at Warner, but I absolutely, positively abhor the cardboard "snapper." It reminds me of the cardboard cassette cases RCA introduced in the 1970s, along with such other technological missteps as Dynaflex and CED.

Another relic — and one I fortunately do not own — are the old Divx discs, that ridiculous limited-play concept that required you to pay (electronically, over phone lines) every time you wanted to watch a disc again, after picking one up for $5 and getting a 48-hour grace period.

For $20 — the same price as a standard DVD — you could "convert" your Divx disc into a Divx Gold disc that supposedly would play forever, albeit only on Divx-enabled players.

The problem there is, what happens when your Divx-enabled player breaks down? They aren't making them anymore, so I guess all those $20 "gold" discs aren't worth beans.

Then again, that's how I felt about the entire Divx concept.

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