CeePrompt! Computer Connection
Originally published January 21, 2002

A humbling introduction to the world of DVD

Since Sept. 11 the country has bemoaned a sagging economy. Having taken these concerns to heart, we opted for an early Christmas of sorts and purchased a DVD player in early November. This ultimately proved to be a challenging and humbling experience, however. For all I know about computers and software, I apparently know equally as little about DVD players. The word "digital" in the name did not translate to any familiar medium. 

Once it was out of the box, it seemed straightforward enough to connect the new player using the red and yellow cables, except we couldn't find any corresponding outlets on the television. Undaunted, we hauled the player from room to room, searching for a suitable TV, dismantling bookshelves and furniture in the process. 

Perhaps it's supposed to run through the VCR? Dragging the player and cables back to the living room, my patient husband spent another hour trying to hot-wire the new DVD player to run through the old VCR. Certainly we couldn't be the only new DVD owners having such difficulty. 

After three frustrating hours, husband Tom returned to Circuit City and made the only reasonable choice. He purchased a new television. "George Bush made me," he stated flatly upon returning home. It was clearly a patriotic solution that avoided having to ask for further instructions. As it turns out, our sets were apparently too old to accommodate DVD technology. 

It would have been nice if the salesman included this information in his original sales pitch, thereby consolidating the purchases into one trip instead of two.

Lo and behold, the DVD player finally worked with the new set, although we watched the first hour of "Bridget Jones's Diary" without sound. The salesman assured us the new TV was equipped with the latest and greatest "S" cable,. and nothing more was needed. After yet another disassembly, we learned the "S" cable was only for improved video performance. You still need an audio connection. 

I have a new-found empathy with the struggles of beginning computer users. I promise to be more patient. We still have several remote controls, and it takes at least three to accomplish the most-basic tasks, but we're persevering.


DVD movies are noticeably improved over VHS technology. The clarity, detail, audio enhancements and convenience account for the popularity of this new entertainment medium. Local rental outlets have a disproportionately small number of DVD movies for rent, however, as compared to VHS rentals. 

Netflix.com is subscription service that's a great alternative to running back and forth to the video store. Based in Los Gatos, Netflix has over 10,000 DVD titles and an inventory of 2.5 million DVDs. They mail between 65,000 and 106,000 DVDs per day to their subscription customers. 

For $19.95 a month, you can rent as many movies as you like. You make your choices online, and you're sent your first three selections by first class mail. As soon as you return one or more, the additional titles in your queue are shipped. Average members rent five to seven movies monthly. There are no due dates or late fees, and Netflix pays all postage costs.

Subscribers are enjoying the convenience and large selection offered by Netflix. "No late fees and excellent customer service" are reasons Toni Cecchetti has been a longtime Netflix subscriber. If your movies are damaged for some reason, it's remedied via e-mail, and Netflix will next-day ship the same movie or the next movie in your queue. "To get the most out of the service, it is best to return the DVD's right away," Cecchetti advises. 

So far the DVD rental service has been primarily word-of-mouth, but with 300,000 subscribers, Netflix is growing in popularity and becoming a dot-com success story. Information: www.netflix.com.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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