There was a big push for Laserdisc in the early-80s, but it didn't catch on in the UK. It was too expensive, there was too little software, people were still getting used to video, and there were several competing standards. It had much more success in America, as people there had lots of money and were bored with video. I can still remember a competition in kid's television comic Look-In at the time to win a laserdisc player and copies of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition. I entered, but I didn't win. How different life would have been if I had won. I'd know those two films off by heart, for a start, as they would probably have been the only laserdiscs we would have owned.

There was another big push for Laserdisc in the mid-90s, and it was growing in popularity before being snuffed out utterly and permanently by DVD. Nonetheless, the 1996 widescreen, THX-remastered laserdiscs of the original Star Wars trilogy remain the best way to watch the series at home, and will probably remain the best way to watch the films in their pre-'Special Edition' forms. Furthermore some old laserdiscs also have more or different extras than their equivalent DVDs - Tron and the Criterion Collection version of Blade Runner were particularly notable in this respect.

It's worth mentioning VideoCD, too, which hit the UK in the early 1990s. VideoCD was a pre-DVD digital video format which used standard compact discs to store MPEG data, one disc per hour of film. It was massive in Japan but, as with Laserdisc, it baffled consumers in the UK. Philips' CDi was the only readily-available VideoCD player on the market, and an advertising push which positioned the machine as a big... multimedia... thing... confused people into inaction. There were MPEG cards for most of the CD-based consoles (including a special release of the Playstation, which was bright white and rare outside Japan), and there was a subculture of Anime fans who kept specialist importers in business for a while. DVD also squashed VideoCD; the picture quality of VideoCD was worse, the sound was usually plain stereo, and there were no extras at all of any kind, rarely even chapter stops.

(c) Ashley Pomeroy 2001