Since humankind first scribbled on cave walls there’s been countless ways to document information. But with the advent of MP3s, GPS and ‘the cloud’ could we be saying our last farewell to physical formats?
The latest digital format to grab the world is the Blu-ray, and it marks a huge leap forward. A twin layer Blu-ray disc can hold around 50 gigabytes (GB) of data, which is more than enough room for a high-definition film, or even a 3D one.
But will it be enough for the 3D films of the future that don’t require 3D specs? The format saw off its HD DVD competitor back in 2008, but is another challenger lurking in the shadows? Perhaps Blu-ray will be the world’s last physical disc, as we begin to download films and games straight to our hard drives instead.
How times have changed
The Sony Walkman revolutionised portable, personal music and the iPod took it to another level. But in my opinion, this format is far from perfect. MP3 audio is so compressed that it lacks its original hi-fidelity, and you can’t lend an album to a friend like you could with vinyl.
Maps have taken a hammering in recent years, too. GPS has muscled its way onto mobile phones and cameras. And I can see the benefits. When you’re taking a trip it’s best to travel light. A road map of France is likely to hold more information than you’ll actually need driving all the way down to Nice.
Plus, GPS maps are more personalised. If you’re a vegetarian your GPS could direct you to a suitable restaurant, or if you’re a blues fan it might let you know of a little blues bar round the corner from your hotel. It might take the adventure out of travelling, but oh, the convenience!
Time to move onto ‘the cloud’?
But don’t be tricked into thinking that the digital stampede will end once it’s obliterated its analogue and physical counterparts. I don’t think people will be satisfied with emptying the VHS drawer beneath the TV – I can see them wanting to reclaim the space on their computers’ hard drives too.
In time people will still own the maps, songs, video games and news that they buy. But they won’t be able to touch them physically – or even see the space that they occupy on their multimedia tablet’s memory. Instead it’ll all live in ‘the cloud’ and be accessible over the web through any media portal of choice.