DVD: from gadget to appliance

Does it seem as if every time you walk into your video store that another aisle has been turned over to DVDs?

It's not your imagination. The Associated Press reports that DVDs will account for 40 percent of Blockbuster's rental revenues by the end of 2002. And DVD players are a red-hot Christmas gift item this year, perhaps spurred in part by Americans' renewed desire to stay home and "cocoon" since Sept. 11. The players expected to be in a quarter of American homes by Dec. 31, racing with record speed from being a gadget for technophiles to a common household appliance.

Did you keep your favorite audio-cassette tapes from before you bought your CD player? It's the same deal with your videotapes and VCR: Don't pitch 'em yet, because that under-$200 DVD player you're about to put under the tree won't record TV shows. The models that do are still expensive ($1,000 plus) and come in four competing formats, and you could choose the wrong one - remember Betamax?

No one doubts that the DVD (digital versatile disc) is here for a good long stay, at least as far as electronic devices go. It has plenty of advantages over a VCR: The picture and sound are noticeably better, and it can be quickly accessed at many points (no more hunting through a tape).

And DVDs hold much more information. That means you get extra features that won't fit on a tape: "making of" documentaries, directors' comments, outtakes, trailers, alternative endings, even games to play.

So start clearing a shelf: You're going to need it for your DVD player soon.

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