National NV-G21 VCR
Technology is changing so fast these days. A product is no sooner launched, than it seems it’s ‘past-it’ technology wise. There are two inter-related reasons for this pace that I can see; the time required to develop the technology to a point where it is cost-effective, and the influence of the competition.
Most new products are ‘born’ conceptually a number of years before the public gets to hear about them. The idea is teased out (and usually tossed out) during it’s viability study, then prototyped and given a marketing slant. Will the R&D (Research and Development) costs be returned before the technology is out of date? Can it be produced at a price the consumer can afford (and hence buy lots)? Will our competitors beat us to it?
You’re probably asking yourself “What the hell has this got to do with the National G21 Video?” And maybe you’re right. This is supposed to be a review of a piece of equipment, and I’m supposed to give you a run-down on all the frilly bits and give you a yes or no conclusion at the end as to whether its good or not – right? Well here’s the answer to the review part: Yes the National G21 is a good video machine.
Now that I’ve got rid of my contractual obligations, I can waste the rest of my soliloquy on more of the above. You see, the National G21 represents the latest in consumer video technology by utilising some technology that has been around for a few years; namely barcodes. As a VHS machine, it performs more than adequately, with some handy transport controls (still-frame, frame advance) and the usual VHS technical performance (high video noise, poor audio performance, susceptibility to tape problems, etc – but nothing that we haven’t grow to accept on all VHS videos). But at least (for a change) we were quick to receive this new technology – second after Japan and before (hee-hee) Australia.
The main gimmick being promoted by National on their new VHS machines is barcodes. The people at National Panasonic have really got their marketing act together on this one; they’ve recognised that most NZ’ers (myself included) are armchair realists, and if we had our way would operate our entire leisure time (including aerobic sports) from the comfort of our chez lounge. They have also identified the Listener as being the magazine read by the NZ Viewer.
After checking out the Listener (I only buy it for the interviews), I can confirm that the barcode listings do actually exist every week, even if only for two or three programs a day. My guess is that the Listener doesn’t want to be seen as being too flagrant with copyright laws, and is only listing those programs with cultural integrity (and not much copyright protection) such as Sport on One, Miami Vice, Dallas and Eastenders.
If you don’t want to record those programs selected by the Listener as intelligent viewing and want to record something more insignificant such as the Fijian Presidential Campaign or Sledge Hammer, you need to resort to a slightly more time consuming pastime called “barcode encode and transmission”. This delightful card game, which you get free with every National G21 (and all but one of the other latest National Videos) is great for all the family. Simply converting the programme times from the Listener (or other media) into 24 hour time, adding and subtracting minutes to allow for TVNZ programming accuracy, finding and entering each step with the barcode wand (channel, date, start time to the nearest half-hour, additional start time to the nearest minute, finish time to the nearest half-hour, additional finish time to the nearest minute, cancel when you stuff it all up, etc) getting rewarded with it’s delightful pi-pi-pi-pi when you get it right, and finally transmitting it to your recorder, are great tests of perseverance and eye-hand coordination.
Admittedly, I got the hang of it within a few days, and was able to whiz up a quick programme session almost as fast as I could find a blank-ish tape to record on. Even the Listener was handy on those days when, bleary-eyed and late for work, and finding that there actually was something listed that I wanted to record that night, I was able to trim minutes off my morning routine.
The big ($1,299) question is “Would I actually buy a National G21?”. And the answer is an unabashed NO. Why? Well for starters I want a HiFi video and the G21 is not that. Secondly the main reason I have a video is to record the one or two programmes and films a week that are worth viewing, that are invariably poorly timed to coincide with some other event. The Listener would have to barcode every programme to make the codes truly useful. My year old National G7 is entirely adequate for my purposes (although I would like a of the G21’s still-frame and frame advance (slo-mo) facilities).
My final reason for not buying the G21 are because I’m waiting to see what comes out of Japan next. You see dear reader, I am aware of the technology advances, cut-throat marketing and sudden price drops (dumping) that accompany severe competition within an industry, and as a consumer I protect myself from it, by… you guessed already… RENTING!
National G21 VCR. $1299