Fifty years ago, if you had asked any American kid what the future would look like, he probably would have told you we’d have flying cars, robot butlers, jet packs, and so on. He wouldn’t have predicted we’d all be fatter than ever, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, driving cars that look much less cool than the ones he could see cruising on his shiny new, wide-open Interstate. None of that boy’s predictions may have come to pass, but I experienced the future last night, and it was amazing.
We went to Best Buy last Saturday and bought a Blu-ray disc player. I had seen one at a friend’s house last year, and the picture was incredible. But I expected it to be. Since the introduction of the DVD player, video quality has been steadily improving. HDTV, of course, has been the greatest leap forward. But the Blu-ray player is much more than high-definition video. It’s Netflix.
I must be the last of my friends to use Netflix, an online video store that sends DVDs to members through the mail, which they then watch and return. That process is fairly low-tech, and never struck me as the most convenient way to watch movies, though I had to admire Netflix’s selection.
Recently, visiting friends, I have seen that Netflix now offers streaming video, which can be accessed via fancy game consoles or a Blu-ray player. Harris and Kat, and Ryan and Karla showed us how they could select from a seemingly unlimited number of Netflix films to watch instantly on their TVs through internet streaming. My prognosticating skills are apparently limited, because I never thought streaming video was the future. That is, I thought slow internet connections and limited hard-drive space were significant obstacles. Who, I wondered, would spend hours downloading a movie, which will take up a ton of space on his or her computer, and which he or she will have to watch on a tiny computer screen? That’s not how it works, it turns out.
On Monday morning I hooked up our new Blu-ray player, moved around some wires so I could connect it to the cable modem, and then signed up for Netflix. Last night we experienced the magic. We went to the Netflix website, selected the exact movie Miriam wanted to see at that moment, added it to our “instant” cue. Then, magically, that title appeared on our TV screen. I pressed play, the Blu-ray player spent thirty seconds or less downloading the movie–or at least it began downloading the movie–then the film began. The picture was widescreen, looked as good as a DVD, sounded as good, too, and played flawlessly without any skips or blips for the entire duration of the film. I could barely believe it. Miriam and I high-fived each other.
So, now there are countless movies and TV shows that we have ready to watch whenever we sit down in front of the television. Plus, we can still get physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs in the mail. I’m expecting Parsifal today.
We’re living in the future! What does it cost? Less than nine dollars a month. Since we canceled the premium channels on our cable, were saving money. Huzzah!