The Superior Technology of Betamax

By Fanno, Wayne | The Agricultural Education Magazine, January/February 2001 | Go to article overview

The Superior Technology of Betamax


Fanno, Wayne, The Agricultural Education Magazine


All you old timers remember Betamax. Sony Corporation's home video format. It was small, high quality, light, and produced by one of the leaders in the industry. And it was a failure. The technology was rejected by the general public in favor of the VHS format.

So you ask, "which one was better?" Answer, it doesn't really matter. In order for "consumer" technology to be useful a wide audience must use it. It must be considered a standard format or platform and hold some longevity. Betamax was not alone. The Apple IIgs, Amega, and NeXT computers are still being used, but I would not recommend anyone buying one.

Looking backwards is the easy part. What is on the market today that will be a good technology purchase for years to come? Good question. By looking at what is currently the standard, the platforms with flexibility, we should be able to see application with longevity for years to come.

With the coming of age of digital imaging, equipment is becoming more affordable and the technology is becoming standardized. Digital imaging is now a technology that can and should be used in most agriculture programs.

What is digital imaging? In simple terms, images are captured in the camera, and converted to series of O's and I's. Much in the same way that this text is converted from keystrokes into an electronic format that can be saved on a disk; images can be converted into ones and zeros. Digital imaging has several advantages over analog film.

First, the quality of the product does not degrade with successive generations. In other words, you can make copies of copies of copies, and the final "generation" is of the same quality as the original. Second, digital images are computer ready. No need to scan or convert. Once the image is saved, it's ready to use. Finally, the images are easy to reproduce.

To make a copy of an old photo, you will need to find the negative or scan the image. Both methods take effort. With digital, the image can be copied quickly and across multiple storage platforms. A picture could go from the camera, to a hard drive, to a CD, and finally to a 3 1/2 disk within a matter of minutes. With the final copy just as high of quality as the original.

Three applications for digital imaging include; still photography, video, and microscopes. Again, this is not "new" technology, but it is technology that is becoming affordable, is flexible, and has achieved some standardized formats.

Digital Still Photography

Digital photograph cameras have made a broad impact in the digital market. The cameras are more expensive than similar quality 35mm SLR cameras, but the storage of images is relatively cheap as compared to film and photo processing.

Data (images) are most commonly stored in removable memory "sticks" or chips in the camera. The data is then downloaded using a cabling system that runs from the camera to the computer. Sony has developed a series of cameras that use a standard 3 1/2" disks as the storage system, and has just released a camera that writes the stored photos directly to a writeable CD.

One of the most standard formats for the stored data is Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or JPG) format. The cost for a quality camera will vary from $450 to $1,200. …

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