AVAYN (Audiovisual Acronyms You Need) | Newberry

AVAYN (Audiovisual Acronyms You Need)

You are, of course, not responsible for sorting things for us. I appreciate the effort, but you have as much as you can do as it is, getting all those books on World War II tank combat out of the house before your significant other notices. (She might retaliate against your Hello Kitty collection.)

But I couldn’t help noticing those three big boxes you brought me, carefully labeled “CDs, Box 1”, “CDs, Box 2”, and “CDs, Box 3.” It was nice of you to give us that little heads-up.

Even if the boxes were completely filled with DVDs.

I’ve noticed this lately: any sort of disc you play is a CD these days. A lady asked me once whether we took donations of CDs. “The old kind,” she said, “That play at 33.”

I’m used to this sort of thing. In the part of America I come from, what I would call catalogs are “magazines”, and what I call magazines are known as “books”. You just adjust your expectations and go along with the local lingo.

Of course, you can also take arms against a sea of troubles and try to get it right. In the interests of which, I would like to note the following media classifications, kind of in order by age.

LP: This is a 12-inch disc, also called a record. It plays on something variously called a record player, a phonograph, or a stereo. (And, in bygone days, a gramophone, a Hi Fi, etc. etc.) Records come in other sizes and speeds, which are known by other names. A 7-inch single with a big hole in the middle is a 45 (or doughnut), a 10-inch single which plays at a high speed is a 78, while a 10-inch album which plays at 33, like an LP, is an EP, or extended play. These are all collectively known these days as “vinyl”, even though usually only the LP or EP was actually made of polyvinyl chloride (or PVC)

VHS: This is a large cassette with videotape inside. The letters stand for Video Home System but no one has cared about that since the mid-seventies. The videocassette, or VHS tape, or just VHS, is played on a VCR (Video Cassette Recorder.) This is now regarded as a dead technology—the last maker of VCRs ceased production in 2016—which means I have started to get people letting me know “Have you heard VHS is coming back?” (Somebody has released their new movie direct to tape, just to make trouble.)

CD: This is a small disc, generally with a label on one side and a mirror filled with rainbows on the other. It was introduced commercially around 1979 as a way to get a lot of music into a smaller space, which is why they were called Compact Discs. A spin-off of these, also commercially available, was the CD-ROM, which stood for Compact Disc—Read Only Memory. This usually indicated a computer program disc, like a game or other material you could read on your computer, though you couldn’t write anything onto the disc. (You couldn’t do that to most commercial CDs either, but, hey, it’s their game, so they can call things what they want.)

DVD: This is a disc which looks exactly like a CD but contains video material where a CD is usually only audio. It comes (usually) in an entirely different kind of case, which is why I figured a person should be able to tell the difference. The letters used to stand for Digital Video Disc but there are now so many discs with a movie, a couple of songs from the movie, and a video game based on the movie that the industry has decided this now stands for Digital Versatile Disc.

All of these are now considered obsolete by people with the technical know-how to download songs and movies and such without bothering with any kind of recording medium. To these people the LP, DVD, and VHS are equally dusty artifacts. But at least now you know the abbreviations for what they are. You will not be like the couple who went to a Book Fair (not ours, alas), where the husband asked “Do you have a section for LGBT?” at which his wife elbowed him and said, “Why would you want to look THERE? You know our player doesn’t work any more!”

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