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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 24 May, 2019

A look back at the days when DVD players used to cost £600

Do you remember the first DVD you ever bought?


WE’RE ALREADY AT a stage in history where people are beginning to feel nostalgic about DVDs. 

Anyone who has recently watched a DVD for the first time in a long time has probably noticed that they’re much more awkward than any of us remember, as they’re far slower than Netflix and a bit more difficult to navigate. This obviously isn’t the aspect of DVDs that people are missing nowadays. What we all miss about DVDs is the shops where you can rent them. 

As the internet became more and more accessible, so did movies and TV shows. We stopped going to Xtravision and Chartbusters, and instead, we sat at home angrily waiting for this notification to disappear from our screens:


Eventually Netflix became available in Ireland and the UK, so the Megavideo 72 minute limit became a bit of a relic. You might even feel nostalgic about that screenshot above. DVD rental shops suffered greatly because of the introduction of Netflix, but we really didn’t care at the time, did we? We abandoned them, and our ability to rent basically any movie we could think of (or order in whatever DVDs the shop hadn’t acquired yet), instead to pay Netflix a monthly fee for a very limited selection of films and TV shows.

Many of us eventually decided to throw out our DVD players because they were just taking up space and gathering dust. Now that laptops don’t come with disc trays anymore, a lot of us don’t even have a DVD player in our house. 

It’s easy to forget that there was once a time where a DVD player was one of the most aspirational products for sale in Ireland. 

Thankfully, RTÉ Archives have documented some of the hype surrounding DVD players in the late 90s, when they were selling for around £600 in Ireland. They went into Peats World of Electronics and had a staff member named Mark Hyland explain the magic of Digital Versatile Discs to the world in a news segment. 

PastedImage-42306 Source: RTÉ

DVD is this. Literally, what it is, is a Digital Versatile Disc. It looks like a standard CD, but it has a lot of hidden features like it’s double-sided, it can store up to 24 times as much information as a standard CD, it can play up to 32 different subtitles for movies, it can play up to 8 main channels for sound. You can store up to four hours worth of digital pictures and 9 hours of digital audio. 

While listing off all of the ways in which DVD was superior to VHS, Mark didn’t even mention all of the DVDs that had games in the bonus features. Maybe DVDs full potential had not even been imagined at this stage. 

RTÉ reporter Anthony Murnane explained, “DVD machines can also play your music CDs. In the future, all our video and audio needs will be available as a single cabinet unit.” Little did we all know, that all of our video and audio needs would be met by our mobile phones two decades later. 

At the moment, there’s nothing we can really do to soothe our nostalgia for a visit to Xtravision on a Friday or Saturday evening. There’s nowhere we can recreate the experience of going into any branch in the country and being met at the door by that same odour of carpet and popcorn, all while our ears are flooded with the sound of a fight scene in an action movie playing on the TV screen behind the counter.

We can’t stroll around every section looking for films to watch, before taking a wander over to the phone section and the video games section where children are loitering around the demo Playstation 2 playing Fifa. Nor can we pay €1 per 10 minutes to use a computer or sunbed in a DVD shop anymore. 

However, we can still rent DVDs – and for free – believe it or not. When’s the last time you paid a trip to your local library? Chances are, they’ve got some DVD titles you love which aren’t on Netflix. Your local library also won’t cater their entire film collection to your taste alone, the way that Netflix does, so you might even come across a film that wouldn’t have been prioritised for you on Netflix, even if it were on the site. 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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