Everyone expects technology to change quickly. Many people in this day in age would be disappointed if it didn’t. There is always a new cutting edge contraption right around the corner that could be the silver bullet to make life easier, quicker, cheaper, or more enjoyable. Even so, there are some things that people do not expect to change with the same rapidity, such as cable connections. One of the most maligned and discredited kinds of technology to be consistently ridiculed is the HDMI cable.
The Cable Backstory
HDMI first appeared on the scene in 2002 as a way to replace Component cables as well as carry full digital video and audio on a single cable. Prior to the invention of HDMI, Component cable had been the standard that replaced Co-Ax cable between televisions and their accessories. Co-Ax cable is a prime example of a cable that follows the typical arc of connectivity technology, which is that it is still in use for many purposes. Even satellites are still typically linked to their control boxes via Co-Ax cable.
When Component cable came along, it too lasted for many years as televisions around the globe had to adjust to the new technology. To this day, nearly every television produced still has Component interfaces. Most DVD, Blu-Ray, and gaming systems also have a Component option even today. Like Co-Ax cable, Component video and audio held on for a long time, even as emergent technologies bypassed their usefulness.
DVI and Firewire
After Component cable was two technologies that were supposed to take the world by storm. These were DVI and Firewire. They were supposed to be single cable connections that carried digital picture and sound at tremendous speeds, allowing for a viewing and listening experience unlike anything ever seen or heard before outside of the theater. However, both things are barely niche products anymore, and are one of the technologies that fell by the wayside in favor of HDMI.
Although, many people now wish that DVI and Firewire were still around.
HDMI didn’t come onto the scene with a bang. It didn’t emerge the way that Co-Ax or even Component cable did. It didn’t arrive as the newest, hottest thing. It crept in late one night and hasn’t left since.
The HDMI Blues
Co-Ax and Component started out ahead of their time. They were big splashes in the technological world in that the quality of information that they could transmit was so revolutionary. They were many years ahead of their time. That is how they managed to last. On the flip side, HDMI was more the latecomer to the party. It was the person that walked in halfway through a movie and had to ask the person next to them what had happened so far. It didn’t explode out in front of the competition, and as such has been a constant source of irritation.
A Co-Ax or Component cable today is much the same as a Co-Ax or Component cable have been since they were first introduced. The features and connectivity have seen only slight improvements as time has passed, and even those were folded into new production without any fanfare. HDMI on the other hand is onto its fifth hardware change since it came out in 2002, and there are still more to come. Like many pieces of hardware and software these days, HDMI tends to be released with each new version adding on to help fix the weaknesses of the old. Where Co-Ax and Component came out ready to play for years and years, HDMI is released with bugs that only an upgrade can fix.
The Conspiracy Corner
It has been theorized that part of this is by design. Some have claimed that with Microsoft releasing new updates and patches to their software, it was seen how much money can be bilked out of a market by not coming out with their best and brightest. Rather, certain features were withheld so that they could be refined and then released later, forcing consumers to purchase the new product in order to receive the benefits. Apple has been guilty of this as well. They release a good idea prematurely and then release increasing versions as time goes on. The big difference is that Apple and Microsoft are both innovators in their fields, and so even their lesser products are still ages ahead of everything else on the market. HDMI is not quite the same way, as it did come on the tails of DVI and Firewire, which were very similar to HDMI in every way.
The other issue that has been screamed from the rooftops regarding HDMI is that it doesn’t survive on its novelty – on its powerful appeal – but merely on the fact that enough corporate backers found the product easier to mass produce than DVI or Firewire plugs. A combination of movie production studios and the big names behind Audio and Video find it simpler to add HDMI to their products than they do DVI or Firewire. It is hotly debated whether this makes HDMI the best, or merely the simplest.
Part of the problem that HDMI had encountered is that unlike Co-Ax or Component cable, HDMI is facing a market that changes much faster, which means it must change with it or perish. It must be able to accommodate the rapid shift from DVD to Digital DVD to Blu-Ray. It must also add in not only audio and video Components, but also the allowance for Ethernet connectivity just to stay ahead of the curve. Once televisions made the move to fully digital picture and sound, they changed by leaps and bounds. 720p quickly became 1080i which has moved to 1080p with 3D and LED screens. HDMI cable producers have to scramble just to keep up with the curve, instead of being able to rest on their laurels the way that Co-Ax and Component cables did.
Whether or not HDMI is a conspiracy or not, whether it is a marketing ploy or not, whether it comes from a place of dark capitalism or not, there is one fact that is certain and that is that it is simply the best thing on the market for the moment. The releases of new versions may be intended to milk additional funds from the populace, but could just as easily be the only way HDMI can provide the best possible product to deal with an ever changing marketplace. It still is a reasonable, affordable, attractive alternative for anyone that wants the best and is willing to pay for it. Anyone that isn’t still has Component options, so cries of conspiracy often fall on deaf ears.
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