Thomas Edison

The Long History of Format Wars

I always thought the earliest format war was between VHS and Betamax. But actually fights over industry standards are as old as electronic consumer devices themselves. Take Thomas Edison for example: not only did he invent the record player but also owned his own label: National Phonograph Company, later Edison Records.Writes Blender:

Naturally, it was the biggest one around at first but made two fatal errors. One was that Edison Records worked only on Edison’s players, while other manufacturers’ conformed to the industry standard and worked interchangeably.

Starting a format war? Never a good idea. And while it might be argued about whose standard was superior, the ultimate doom for Edison's label was his own taste in music:

Edison let his personal taste govern Edison releases—and he hated jazz: “I always play jazz records backwards,” he sniffed. “They sound better that way.” So after releasing the world’s first jazz recording—Collins and Harlan’s “That Funny Jas Band From Dixieland”—the company spurned the craze in favor of waltzes and foxtrots. Edison Records folded in October 1929.

At least this one time the porn industry didn't play a decisive role. Maybe this story also offers some comfort for Toshiba who blew a billion dollars on HD-DVD. They're in good company with people who electrocute elephants.