VHS vs Digital

I was just reading this discussion on Slashdot about how VHS technology will not become obsolete anytime soon (and here I was thinking that it’s already dead). I had one of those rare realizations about how far things have come in Pakistan (or at least in the major cities of Pakistan).

From the discussion, it seems that most American households still have VCRs and are reluctant to get rid of VHS. The opposite seems to be true here. I must have watched maybe just one or two movies on VHS since I got here and the last time I used a VCR myself was while in Japan. OTOH, I’ve watched countless DVDs and VCDs and not just on my own PC.

Pretty much everyone I know has at least one PC and that too at least good enough to play a video CD. Either that or they’ve replaced their VCR with a DVD player. You might argue that most of the people I know are tech-savvy, but that isn’t exactly true these days. Besides myself, there isn’t anyone in our family directly related to IT (I doubt anyone really understands my work), yet a wedding video we recently received from relatives in Karachi (relatives who aren’t even remotely related to computers), was on a video CD.

I guess there are a few explanations for this difference. One is the availability of cheap (mostly pirated) media. You can pick up a movie on VCD for roughly Rs.60 (~USD 1) from almost any corner shop and a DVD for about twice that while VHS is mostly confined to select video shops and doesn’t offer as much choice. Blank CDs can be bought in bulk really cheaply though DVD-R/DVD-RW hasn’t come down in price enough to be more common.

The other is the openness to this type of change, or attention to details and inner workings in general, that Pakistanis posess. You can’t succeed here without knowing exactly what is going on around you. Even for things as simple as getting a mobile connection or having your car repaired, you have to be a part of the process and know what’s happening. Less common though still present is the “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. If your friend just got a new DVD player, you have to get one that’s better.

If it wasn’t for the affordability factor, I’m sure things would be even further ahead. Price is one major cause for DVD writers not being more common. I would get one for backups if they were less expensive, though haven’t checked the prices for a while. Maybe it is time.

5 thoughts on “VHS vs Digital

  1. You have pointed to a real phenomenon – it is true that Pakistani’s are more tech savy or more eager to adopt newer technology than most americans. Just look at the speed at wich mobile phone were taken up since their first introduction, 1996? if I remember correctly. Pakistan’s telephone infrastructure is 75% based on optical fiber, compared to 40% in USA. Look at other techs. Smart cards have repeatedly failed in usa to catch user attention, although they have been much succesful in Europe and far East. Same is true for VHS and DVDs. Most wired or networked counrty is not usa but some little known scandanavian country. Electronic voting: Eurpoe is far ahead. So do I agree with your analyis about costs, monkey business, and environmental forces, to a degree yes. But lets also include ‘common IQ’, which I think desi have in abundance whereas americans seem to lack not only genersal knowledge, but also IQ. and also us primary education is to be blamed. Is it not true that 50% of us high school grad can not count change or know the name of US capital?

  2. Not entirely true. Most Americans, and I mean a good 99 percent prefer to watch movies in theaters rather than at home, and as far as the rentals go, VHS ratings arent any higher than Dvds. Infact most of the people here choose dvds over the tapes.
    And Zaheer- “Is it not true that 50% of us high school grad can not count change or know the name of US capital” is a stereotype =) A whole lot of people tend to view Americans as “dumb” or “low in IQ” when you should be looking at the fact that some of the top universities in the world belong to US. And majority of people attending these schools are Americans. U.S also has some of the finest doctors in the world which explains why every other person chooses to get treatment here in states rather than anywhere else.
    And those are just two examples of the many others.

  3. Well before the raids on DVD factories in Karachi. One could have had DVD’s for as low as Rs. 70 from Imperial Market Rawalpindi. Dont know about now, though.


  4. Zaheer, Shaima:
    For the ~16 years I’ve lived in America I can tell you that the stereotypes might be exaggerated a bit (50% is absurd), but there are plenty of Americans that don’t have a clue about anything. The fact is that they could care less or don’t get the time to learn more about other things besides themselves.

    American schools are pathetic. I’m not talking about universities. A lot of Americans go to college but most don’t attend top universities. I graduated from an American high-school where the most important thing was football instead of academics. Our math textbooks were ancient while I’m sure the football team had the best equipment. Also about 60% of my graduating class went to a local college. Most Americans could also care less about college even when they are there. It’s all about partying and getting drunk here. It’s no surprise how international students dominate the school and a lot of people doing research in America are from outside the country. It’s insane the number of Indians/Asians at my university.

    On the topic of VHS vs DVDs in Pakistan, I would assume that the marginal cost for producing DVDs is much less compared to VHS and probably the factor as to why poorer nations are more ready to jump to cheaper technologies especially if those technologies are just as effective as their predecessors if not more. Also there is a lot more regulation in America and hardly none in Pakistan. Things in America are just done in a more systematic way. E.g. The enacted law that by (2008 ?) all broadcasts are to be HDTV.

    The other thing is that there is just soo much in America. The bulk of all VHS tapes in the world are most likely in America. But there are plenty of people who use DVDs. In fact every new item that comes now is in DVD form and while VHS will still hang around for a bit longer it doesn’t mean that no one is using DVDs. If you go into a blockbuster you will find all the new releases mostly in DVD form.

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