1988: Pioneer CLD-1010 Laserdisc Player
•Price: $1427 ($2278 adjusted for inflation)
•Media supported: Laserdisc, CD-audio, CD-video
2008: Panasonic DMP-BD30K Blu-ray Disc Player
•Media supported: Blu-ray 1.1, DVD (with upscaling), CD
Laserdisc was the Blu-ray of 1988 — a high-quality alternative to the then-dominant video media (VHS tape then; regular DVD now). And like Blu-ray gear today, Laserdisc players commanded a premium price.
The Pioneer CLD-1010 doubled as a CD-audio player; and later models could play DVDs, too. But Laserdisc never gained widespread support from equipment makers and movie studies, and as a result its household penetration in the United States peaked at just 2 percent.
The last movie on Laserdisc came out in 2000. The format survived that long thanks to a cult following among enthusiasts who preferred its smooth, filmlike analog quality to the sometimes blocky and banded DVD format. In fact, astonishingly enough, Pioneer still makes combination Laserdisc/DVD players for hardcore fans of the Laserdisc format.
With Blu-ray's high-definition video, however, the argument is over. Significantly, Blu-ray already enjoys more industry support than Laserdisc ever did. And with buyers flocking to big HDTVs, which are hungry for 1080p content, Blu-ray seems assured of a secure future — at least until Super Hi-Vision comes along.