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Failures in entertainment technology

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Every few years the entertainment industry comes up with new ways for us to amuse ourselves. A few advances — Dolby stereo, camcorders — catch on. Many become high-tech turkeys. Here are some inventions most of us have learned to live without:

3-D movies
Hollywood’s attempt in the early ’50s to lure Americans out of their TV chairs and back into movie theaters (the first 3-D feature: Bwana Devil). But moviegoers found the tinted glasses uncomfortable. By 1960 audiences had generally decided that 3-D wasn’t worth the headache, though the gimmick pops up now and then (as in 1983’s Amityville 3-D).

8-track tapes
A mid-’60s creation for drivers discontented with car radios. Stereo manufacturers soon began providing a home player for the sturdy, boxy little tapes. By 1980, however, audiophiles had switched from 8-track to more versatile cassettes, which could be recorded on and didn’t divide songs with a thunk and a whir. Yet many truckers still swear by 8-track.

Quadraphonic sound
The four-speaker stereo system from the early ’70s. The speakers took up too much room, record companies couldn’t agree on compatible systems, and the few quadraphonic records released were priced at up to $3 more than the standard $5.98 LP.

Sensurround
The ’70s movie sound system designed to scare the bejeezus out of viewers with noise. Earthquake (1974) and Midway (1976) opened respectably enough, but by the time Rollercoaster rolled in 1977, the thrill was gone.

Beta videocassette recorders
The original (1975) format for VCRs. Sony’s Beta offered a clearer picture than now-dominant VHS. But home viewers opted for VHS tapes’ longer playing time, and choices in prerecorded Beta tapes soon dwindled. Today, 95 percent of homes with VCRs use VHS.

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