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I'm the Idiot Who Bought an HD-DVD PlayerA casualty of the format war tells all.

Illustration by Rob Donnelly. Click image to expand.Toshiba finally mercy-killed its HD-DVD format last week, ending a drawn-out fight with Sony's Blu-ray for high-definition disc supremacy. The format's demise has brought HD-DVD owners untold humiliation: reams of newspaper stories comparing them to the losers of yore who bought into Betamax and LaserDisc, the sad sight of desperate early adopters peddling brand-new players on Craigslist, and, worst of all, a Web site celebrating the similarities between HD-DVD and Hillary Clinton. I'm sick of the mockery and abuse. You see, I'm one of the morons who bought an HD-DVD player.

While I freely admit my moronitude, I still believe the HD-DVD owner is an unfairly maligned creature. It wasn't dumb to jump on the HD-DVD bandwagon: Toshiba's technology was cheaper and more consumer-friendly than Sony's. It was dumb, though, to assume that the forces of good would triumph. In the end, the fight between Sony and Toshiba played out like some kind of bizarro sports movie: The bad guy won at the end by clocking the lovable underdog in the crotch with a baseball bat.

In retrospect, it might've been smarter not to buy either player. But alas, I have a strange affliction that left me susceptible to HD-DVD's limited charms: I'm a gadget-loving cheapskate. The typical early adopter opens his wallet first and asks questions later; he doesn't care how many gigs of RAM are inside the MacBook Air, just that it slides into a Manila envelope. The HD-DVD player, however, appealed to a different group, electronics fetishists too imprudent to wait out a format war yet stingy enough to base their purchasing decisions entirely on price. Of course, this is an irrational position, like signing up for the inaugural commercial flight to the moon but only paying for a coach-class ticket. But that's how my brain works—I have a Creative Zen Micro, not an iPod.


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