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1990 HOME ENTERTAINMENT PREDICTIONS

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Well, here we are, savoring the last sweet bites of another year. This is my annual "predictions" column and, as usual, I will crawl out on the limb and begin sawing madly behind me. But first, let's take a look at how I did on last year's predictions.

"Digital AudioTape (DAT) machines will finally go on general sale here. But DAT will be greeted with a ho-hum response by the buying public-we'll all be saving our money for the recordable compact discmachine, promised for 1990."Wrong, at least in part. DAT is still not readily available here, although "professional" units are in wide use. I'm still waiting, with bated breath, for the recordable compact disc promised by Tandy Corporation for Christmas 1990.

"1989 will not be the year that the Beta VCR format dies. With VHS the winner in the format war, Beta will continue to be embraced by the comparatively small, but loyal, group of Betaphiles."

I was right on this one, but for the first time in many years, no really exciting new Beta machines debuted. Perhaps the 1990s will see Beta slip into obscurity. I don't relish the thought. I own several Beta VCRs, a camcorder and more than a hundred films recorded in this still superior format.

"The availability of a drastically improved 8mm video format, to be called 8mm Hi-Band, will aggravate those who just bought `standard' 8mm equipment this year."

While the improved 8mm format (called Hi8) did debut, the impact was not overwhelming. But, I think we will hear a lot more from this for mat as the years slip by.

"High Definition Television (HDTV) will be such a constant topic of radio, TV, magazine and newspaper stories that we'll all be tired of hearing about it when it finally arrives on the scene in the mid-1990s."

I hit the nail on the head with this one - and it's not over yet.

(BU) WHAT 1990 WILL BRING:

Wide-screen TVs, with an aspect ratio of 16:9 will debut in the U.S., but they will cost too much to receive wide acceptance. The public will anxiously wait for prices to become more reasonable.

"Big Screen" TVs will become more and more popular, and, happily, more and more affordable. Fifty-, sixty- and seventy-inch televisions will be at the top of the home entertainment equipment shopping lists by the end of the year.

With the interest in big screen TVs, and new wide-screen sets,

letterboxed movies will become the for mat of choice among film collectors. Letterboxing allows full-width movies to be shown, without trimming the left and right edges for our cur rent 4:3 shaped TV sets.

Sony will demonstrate that it has thrown in the towel on Beta by producing S-VHS VCRs. ED-Beta will continue to be embraced by "vidi-diots" and inhabitants of gilded ghettos.

Some clever manufacturer will finally come up with a programmable VCR timer that earth people can learn to operate.

The influence (both monetary and technical) of Japan on the home entertainment equipment industry will slip for the first time in decades. The slack will be taken up not by the United States but by a re-emerging European electronics industry. French and German company names will slip into our vocabulary.

Hard to believe, but the 8mm for mat will offer even smaller machines than are currently available. This will push the VHS camp to come up with new features and lower prices, in order to stay ahead.

Goodbye 1989, hello 1990! Join me here next year for more evaluations, more prognostications.