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Friday, October 21, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 43

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The Geek Translator is new feature of The Daily Cougar Online. It will appear on Wednesdays.

PlayStation 2: The wave of the future in movies, sound and more

The Geek Translator

By Andrew Hannan

Sony is producing its newest creation as we read this, working out the bugs in its newly built chip fabrication plants, trying to get them up and running to produce the chips for the most powerful entertainment system ever produce for consumer electronics.

On the surface, it looks like the most whiz-bang video game system ever conceived, and it is. Delve deeper, and you might scratch at its multipurpose nature. Swing by Best Buy and look at the DVD players carried there, the cheapest one you might find is going to run about $250, the PlayStation 2 will cost about $350.

If you look at $350 DVD players at Best Buy, they do have a lot more features -- AC-3, Composite Video Outs and in some cases DTS -- but the PlayStation 2 will provide all that and more for the same amount of money.

So you now have one part of the multipurpose nature of the system -- play games and DVD movies -- but there is much more. The next thing has to do with what Sony perceives to be the future of home entertainment centers, and surprisingly enough, it ties in with the Internet.

The system comes equipped with a Universal Serial Bus port and an i.Link (a.k.a. IEEE1394 or FireWire, a high-speed communications port that is about 300x faster than USB) port. Using the USB port, you can get a modem and use the PlayStation 2 to browse the Web and download games for the system from a special site setup by Sony. But they have loftier uses for the Internet.

The PlayStation 2 will, if given enough bandwidth through a cable modem or DSL, also be able to download music and movies to play on your home entertainment center. Using the i.Link you will be able to dump those movies into a hard drive to be able to play those movies back at DVD quality for as long as they are in memory.

What does all this lead too? Well, Sony and many other companies perceive a future where there are no DVDs or CDs; you just download what you want, when you want it. There will be enough bandwidth in the future to make this possible, but no body knows when -- maybe in five years, or as far off as 20 years before a worldwide infrastructure is in place that will allow people to download DVD quality movies in the blink of an eye.

That is why the PlayStation 2 has a DVD drive along with the i.Link port, it is trying to make the system transition ready from our current consumer society to the future consumer society that many believe we are becoming. No more need to "own"a physical representation of a movie (DVD or video tape). We will be content with just a file, stored on our entertainment system's hard drive, that we paid a licensing fee to watch.

For many this sounds horrible, especially when you add into this equation that there will be an encryption on all of these electronically transferred files. You just bought Terminator 3 off the Internet, and it will only play in your system. You cannot take a copy of it over to your friend's house and watch it there.

There may be a way to get around this lack of mobility. Sony is developing an encryption system to go along with the PlayStation 2 called MagicGate. This system will allow you to have an ID with all PlayStation 2s so that files you make (game save files for example) will only work for you and not your snot nosed brother who likes to mess up your Final Fantasy X saved games. Through an ID card or password of some sort, you would be allowed to use those files on other systems.

With all these plans is Sony reaching too far? It would be if the company was pushing all these things when it first starts selling it, but it is not going to. When PlayStation 2 hits the store shelves next year, it will be billed as the ultimate video game console, a high-end DVD player and TV-based Web terminal.

All the other stuff like downloading movies, music and MagicGate will come out about a year later, in Japan. Sony is a Japanese-based company and will release all the cool stuff there first before attempting to bring it here to the United States.

Can you see why you will be buying a PlayStation 2 even if you don't play video games? You can buy this all-in-wonder box that plays DVDs, downloads music and movies, hooks up to your camcorder to make fancy home movies and makes julian fries. Your going to buy one, like it or not.
 


Hannan, a junior pre-business major,
who is trying to convince his wife that she needs a PlayStation 2,
can be reached at whisper_40@hotmail.com.
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