Most people don't know crippling of VCR's and cable is possible. But it is. And it's being done right now--to you, for profit.
THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE OF PROFITS
The general principle can be seen at work in the audio-music industry, when a market becomes exhausted. In other words, when everyone who is going to buy something has bought it, maybe even two, and now there aren't many new customers out there to sell the item to. Or they're not becoming adults with money fast enough for me to stay in business and keep the stockholders happy.
For example, everyone who's going to buy a cassette player/recorder has bought one, or two and I can't make any real improvements so I can't sell any more until the ones bought already break down totally. Same with record players and records before that. How many copies of the same cassette or record album can any one consumer own?
SAME OLD WINE IN SHINY NEW BOTTLES
So I have to come up with something else, the same old thing in a new technological package, such as CD's. Then I can sell new hardware PLUS I can sell the same albums all over again, with CD versions replacing the cassette versions of the album. It isn't really the musical improvement I say it is (as people now admit over 10 years later) but if enough people believe it when I first promote it, then I can sell lots of hardware and even more software to people who thought there was nothing else they had to buy. So the consumer now owns the same Elvis or Beatles or whatever album, in the form of a 45, an LP record, an 8 track, a cassette, and a CD--and maybe soon, a DVD.
CDs ARE INHERENTLY CRIPPLED
The CD was promoted as having better hi-fi and wide dynamic range (range from very quiet to very loud). It was supposedly much better than records and tapes. But by its very nature, CD's were crippled. Since a CD contains only digital samples of parts of the original sound it is by definition giving you less than the original signal contained. That's just what it is and what it does, no matter how much anyone tells you different. It may sample more or sample less, but it is still sampling--which means that it contains much less sound information than the original does.
We'll see this is true with digital video too. It takes samples from parts of the original, not all of the original and so is less, not more than the original.
But CD's were soon crippled further by having their dynamic range drastically narrowed with compression so they could be listend to in cars, over the road noise.
Another reason why CD's ended up being less hi-fi than there were said to be was that much music on CD was rock music, which was loud and bass filled, not quiet and subtle, and so didn't need either dynamic range or much hi-fi
FM STATIONS INTENTIONALLY CRIPPLED TOO
Exactly the same crippling had already happened to FM radio stations, who compressed the music they played drastically, for profit, to keep customers (and advertisers) in cars happy.
But that meant when you listened at home, much of the hi-fi, (what supposely made it superior) was missing. And in your living room, you couldn't undo the compression put in there for people listening on the highway.
VCRs INTENTIONALLY CRIPPLED IN SEVERAL WAYS
CRIPPLING THE RECORDING ABILITY
The basic technology of VCRs originally meant that tapes recorded at the VCR's 2 hour speed were vastly superior in visual quality to tapes recorded at the VCR's 6 hour speed. That's because at the slower 6 hr speed, much less of the original signal was being caught on tape, compared to taping at the faster 2 hour speed, which packed a lot more signal on the videotape. That can be seen as better color and many more details noticeable in the picture.
VCR makers discovered through research that many U.S. consumers care more about cost than about quality and, because of the cost of a videotape, were doing most of their taping at the inferior 6 hour speed instead of at the superior 2 hour speed.
Research showed that, because it was less expensive, many consumers were willing to settle for low-quality pictures when taping at the 6 hour speed.
That implied that they were probably also willing to settle for low-quality pictures even if they were taping at the normally superior 2 hour speed.
So, instead of improving 6 hour speed recording to make it more like 2 hour recording quality, many manufacturers crippled the VCRs they sold. They crippled the VCRs by limiting what had been the superior 2 hour speed so that recordings at the 2 hour speed were not noticeably better than the inferior 6 hour speed.
An outstanding exception was a VCR made for Zenith by JVC, the model VRD 530 HF. Both its 2 hour and 6 hour speed quality was, and still is, if you have one, superior to even the S-VHS models made by JVC. If manufacturers ever want to do quality-conscious consumers a favor they should get a copy of the VRD 530 HF specifications and make and sell that in the U.S.
In fact, as SVHS VCRs were being promoted to take the place of standard VHS VCRs, guess what. The recording quality of VHS machines dropped, making the SVHS look like much more of an improvement that it actually was. Making one thing look worse to make another look better.
TV AND VCR TUNER CRIPPLING
When videotaping off the air or off cable, the first limitation to the quality of the picture is caused by the tuner that picks up the broadcast or cable signal. If the TV or VCR tuner is inferior, it doesn't catch all the signal that is there to be caught. If the tuner doesn't catch all the signal, the recorder can't record all the signal. A tuner in a TV or VCR can be intentionally crippled, made inferior because it costs the manufacturer less that way,
So, many VCR's have tuners that are inferior to the tuner in a person's TV set. Research has shown that when many consumers connect their antenna or cable line to the VCR and then fed the signal through the VCR to the TV set, they do not notice that the picture coming through the VCR is inferior to the picture that would normally have come through the TV set's own tuner. So, when they record, they do not notice the loss of quality caused by the crippled VCR tuner.
So far, we have two levels of intentional crippling for profit that are guaranteed to result in poor recorded image quality. But it doesn't end there.
CRIPPLED DROP OUT PROTECTION
VCR's have been sold in the U.S. that are also crippled because they intentionally lack an effective drop-out corrector (DOC). A drop out corrector coverup small defects (drop-outs) in videotapes that cause spots or streaks to appear in the picture when a videotape is played. Most people don't know their VCR must have a DOC. That's a third level of crippling for profit.
It's the newest level of crippling that's very interesting because it's being promoted as a technical improvement, when it's the opposite.
CRIPPLED DIGITAL CABLE QUALITY
With the coming of digital cable, companies like AT&T Broadband promote the quality of digital cable, but without admitting to the crippling that's intentionally added there. To increase the total number of channels they can off, companies like AT&T, in effect, turn the analog/original picture signal into a digital signal so that the original video signal can be cut in half. In other words, half of the picture's information/detail that was there originally is taken out. One channel is split in half, to create room for a second channel with inferior picture information.
When that is done to all the channels you already had, all those channels drop radically in picture quality. Details that should be there are lost. A face or other skin has no texture. No matter how closely you look, hair isn't hairs, just a blob on the head. Grass and tree branches because a lumpy blur. Things seen from a distance, such as a sports even, are reduced to a blur when, in the orignal, you could easily have seen the details. If you don't believe it, look at the screen credits at the end of movies and see how many are so blurry as to be unreadable. The original doesn't look like that.
When a company calls itself AT&T Broadband, it's trying to create an impression that isn't true. Sounds like more signal when it's really less. Cutting a signal in half doesn't make it broadband, a wide signal, full of detail. Instead it makes it narrow band, lacking any detail. But it does create more channels.
Why do they do this? First, so that more cable channels can be created--and sold. More cable channels but with much inferior picture quality. How inferior. Worse than most VCRs taping at the 6 hour speed.
Second, this is interesting because at the same time these companies are promoting a new technology also based on digital. DVD's are being promoted as being vastly superior to videotape and VCR's and even cable, which (remember) have been intentionally made worse than they really need to be.
WILL DIGITAL MOVIE DVDs or PLAYERS BE CRIPPLED?
Some players already have been, again partially because of consumer ignorance. Because some people have their TV sharpness control turned way up, the DVD detail has artificial edges on images. To reduce consumer complaints, and avoid having to explain to customers that they needed to turn down the sharpness control, some manufacturers crippled their DVD players to reduce their detail output. Think about it. That means that the very thing that DVD manufacturers brag about (detail), would be eliminated by the DVD machine you played it on.
Supposedly all DVD players are the same because the technology is so perfect. But, this was as supposedly true of CD players also. But it seems that you can only get maximum picture quality out of the CD or DVD by purchasing an extremely expensive playback unit, costing nearly $1000 and up. Anything less than that outlay doesn't really get you this DVD perfection.
NOTE: People talk about how much more music one DVD can hold, compared to a single CD and how wonderful that's going to be. Nonsense. The typical CD costs $15 for roughly an hour's worth of music. How much is the company going to charge you for 15 or 10 or even 5 hours worth of music? $15? The history that I've just recited for you says NO WAY!
How much money would you be willing to invest in one DVD that one small scratch could ruin?
CRIPPLED CONSUMERS HELP TO CAUSE CRIPPLED TECHNOLOGY
So, they intentionally make something look worse to make more profits. Then they use the fact that it looks worse to make something else look better, so they can sell you that too. That's crippling for profit.
Research shows they keep getting away with it because consumers don't know and don't care and are willing to believe the most ridiculous advertising claims thrown at them while congratulating themselves for being smart consumers. And even when the majority does know, if they often don't care nothing can change for the better. It's well known that Japanese companies don't even try to sell their best equipment in the U.S. any more. They sell mostly a low level of quality here that their own people would not put up with. As a result the best quality items stay in Japan, where they are appreciated.
CRIPPLED CONSUMER EQUIPMENT REVIEWERS
One last comment. Most magazines that review video and audio equipment on the newsstands deserve to go out of business because they never discuss what you just read here, even though they know full well that this has been going on for the last twenty years. They promote every new technology, no matter how crippled it is.