I remember when... DVD arrived in the UK (June 1997)
Thomson isn't a manufacturer we encounter too often these days, but back when a DVD player was as coveted as a Steve Jobs creation on launch day, the French company led the way on our shores.
Having eagerly previewed DVD since its Japanese rollout in 1996, delivery of the first-ever UK-region player was a memorable day at the office. 'The waiting is over!' we declared in our June 1997 issue.
Yet considering all the fanfare, we were left a bit underwhelmed with the DTH-1000U. Costing £600 and styled by French designer Philippe Starck, we expected something more alluring than a CD player clone.
There was a logic to this: with it able to play CDs, and resembling a CD deck, the upgrade path was defined, but there was no excuse for the basic display and poor remote.
- The Thomson DTH-1000U sits sandwiched between the three decks it pipped to the post as the UK's first DVD player: the Meridian 586, Panasonic DVD-A100 and Pioneer DVL 9. The £1000 Pioneer could also handle laserdisc, Video CD and CD, and is still used by many today.
Picture performance was more of a success – well, initially, at least. With 500 horizontal lines, we were blown away by the clean edges and natural colours of Eraser. But then Blade Runner was played, and digital noise sprung up all over the screen. As with Blu-ray, it was clear from day one that the quality of individual movie mastering would be crucial.
Although Dolby Digital impressed, we were just as tentative about sound. With its huge capacity, DVD-Audio had the capability to spell the end for CD, but early decks couldn't handle the discs. What's more, the Thomson's CD playback was mediocre at best.
Still, the potential was there, so our advice was to sit tight before buying. Sadly, the audio advances were never fully embraced by the mainstream, yet DVD's usability and affordability meant it stood the test of time regardless – in the process consigning several boxes of VHS tapes to a car boot sale near you.
- 'This disc will do it all!' we shout. But they didn't come cheap – only 77 region-2 discs existed, and these had to be imported from Japan. UK discs hit the shops in 1998, with each costing around £20 – quite an outlay for Eraser.
- Don't be thinking we'd forgotten about dear old VHS. Indeed, we even deliberated the use of a Nicam VCR as an audio recorder. Our conclusion? 'For taping CDs, a good cassette deck is better.'