I miss 800.com

As I get older, some recent world history starts seeming like ancient history.This is not a good thing.I date myself when I recall programming with punch cards, real-to-goodness pieces of paper with little holes in them. I date myself when I say that I miss the sound of my old LPs playing on a phonograph. And I am dating myself when I long for those brave pioneers of the early Internet Commerce Experiment (ICE): 800.comI still remember when the world of electronic commerce offered untold riches to anyone who was willing to dream up a new enterprise and pay outrageous sums to web developers to make it a WWW reality. There were offers galore from all sorts of outfits; I naturally gravitated to those offering cheap and discounted DVDs. Don’t forget that we early DVD adopters had to pay upwards of 20.00 for each of our shiny movie discs (my most expensive DVD purchase was 21.99; I paid that for the “Lost in Space” movie DVD which included –wonder of wonders– two commentaries and tons of supplementary material. Wow. I recently saw that very same disc in the discount bin at Fry’s Electronics for 4.99. Wow. )

So I spent my early surfing days looking for discounted and free DVDs. I found 800.com to be a good place for price and selection. Their first sale was 3 DVDs for 1.00 and I quickly took them up on their offer. Yet there was a better draw on their site: they had a film blog and weekly writing contests for free DVDs. I could tell that they loved film and I envied their adventure into online commerce. What could go wrong with selling the films you admired and rewarding good writing from your customers??

Alas, 800.com is no more. They were victims of the Disastrous Internet Bubble Burst (DIBB) and went the way of the dodo, along with Pets.com eToys.com and other worthy endeavours. But I was lucky/talented/geeky enough to win a couple of their contests.� Here are some of my entries, see if you can guess which ones won prizes.

What’s your favorite excuse to justify buying DVD movies?

It’s a great relationship builder!
3/24/2000 7:01:59 PM

Nothing irks my wife and me more than spending 20-30 dollars of
our hard-earned money to go to the theatre, and then finding that
the movie experience did not satisfy us or meet expectations. There
are so many bad movies out there that I feel cheated out of my
valuable time and money!!
So, for *less* than the price of movie tickets and popcorn, I pick up a
nice, exciting DVD at the store and we view it during our “movie
night.” The kids are in bed, the lights are low, the healthy popcorn is
freshly made, the 5.1 sound system is ready to boom, and we snuggle
up in our pajamas ready for a theatre-busting DVD movie experience!
My wife has never questioned me on buying a DVD when we can get
so much joy out of it. And she knows that it’s a small price to pay for
a great relationship-building activity! No female on Earth can debate
that point. And yes, I get to keep the DVD in my ever-growing
collection. Everyone wins!

What new technology will change consumer electronics the way DVDs did?

Cheap displays
4/12/2000 10:22:40 AM
I believe that the next technological breakthrough that will change
consumer electronics is the inexpensive manufacture of display media
(ie.: the video screen on which we view digital material). In the same
way that DVDs made superb audio/video reproduction available
to the public in a compact medium, the manufacture of cheap display screens
will make the use of DVD or any other image data available to the mainstream

Currently, video displays are either cumbersome cathode ray tubes (CRT) or
fragile matrix/plasma displays. If the display could be a mass-produced
layer of addressable matrix points, we could create a video display by
simply cutting up a swath of it and hooking it up to a device that could
take image data and format it to whatever-sized screen we desire (from a
portable wristwatch size to a wall-filling billboard size).

This flexibility, at low cost, would create an instant demand for video
material; some of this demand could be immediately filled by DVDs and other
easily available video storage formats. In the future, we could see
throw-away promotional displays that are driven by a microchip and play a
sponsor’s 15-second message. The limit to the use of this technology is our

What movie scene best shows off your home theater?

Part the Red Sea
4/27/2000 4:22:43 PM
For most of our young generation, the good scenes are the ones
with the loudest bang, the fastest action, the deepest base. For
older people like myself, the excitement is in the “special moment” in
a movie that sticks in our minds.
As a kid, I must have seen “The 10 commandments” at least a dozen
times at the movie theatre. When I grew up and started watching it
on TV, the grandeur and the spectacle seemed much diminished by
the small screen and the commercial breaks. Even the climactic
parting of the Red Sea was trivialized by this new medium.
But when I finally got the movie on DVD, and I hooked it up to my
sound system the magic was back!!! Even on a small 36 inch screen,
the detail jumped out at me and reminded me of the eye-filling
spectacle that I cherished every year at Easter. The sound reminded
me of what it is like to be so overwhelmed that you want to crunch
down into your theatre seat. And the oohs and aahs of the people
that have similarly missed this magic moment in those intervening
years. It is a great movie moment to share!

What changes would you make to the AFI 100 funniest movies list?

The Sneeze Test
7/6/2000 10:58:41 AM

I agree with the other respondents to this question. How can you put
together a list of the funniest films in American cinema is you cannot
even define the concept of humor?
I come from Latin America, and I like to think that my concept of humor
is different from most Americans (even thought I have lived in this country
for over 3/4 of my life!). I remember that as a kid, my idea of a funny
movie was one which had me laughing so hard that my stomach hurt.
Even now, I treasure those cinematic moments that make me laugh so hard that I can
hardly prevent soda from flowing thru my nose (it really hurts, if you are
thinking of doing it yourself!). It is easy to do this to a kid, but at my
advanced age it takes some masterful direction to make me sneeze soda. It
is accomplished by presenting a funny situation, extending it until you are
already laughing, and then topping it off with an extra action that guarantees
loss of bodily control! I can remember Jim Carrey’s “Liar, liar” courtroom
cross-examination scene, in which he accomplishes this feat. Also,
Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” had a great moment involving a reluctantly
disrobed young woman and the sudden introduction of a donkey.
Both of these great moments, alas, did not make it to the top 100
funniest films.
What classic movie would you most like to see on DVD?

Voyage to the Center of the Earth
7/10/2000 2:02:35 PM

While we are on the topic of great movies, how about some of our old
favorites that could be considered guilty pleasures? I am thinking of
the corniest, most imaginative and quaint of all adventure films to hit a
Cinemascope screen: Voyage to the Center of the Earth.
Sure the dinosaurs were nothing more than gussied-up iguanas and
the matte lines on the special effects sequences are all visible, but this
is the type of film that could fire up the imagination in the mind of a 10
year old. I was fortunate enough to first see it on a film print in all its
cropped glory. What I wouldn’t give to see it on 16×9 enhanced

And we can still get Pat Boone to do a “Memories of…” supplement. I
suggest an Icelandic language soundtrack, for those of us with a sense
of humor!

What’s your all-time favorite summer movie?

RE: Independence Day
7/25/2000 4:57:54 PM

You are sooo right!! This was certainly one movie that lived up to its
hype. And there are so many classic moments to choose from. You are
engulfed by the ID4 experience so that you forget all of the many
inconsistencies, flaws, loopholes in the story. Who cares about the
laws of physics as long as the rollercoaster makes you scream with

The cameo by my favourite Star Trek actor, Brent Spiner, was just
icing on top of the cake.

When the HDTV fairy comes to visit me with a new 16×9 set, you can
be sure that this would be the first movie I would put on!
What off-beat DVD box set should the studios release next?

I am not a number!
9/26/2000 8:36:53 AM

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the movie studios have been treating me
like a number. How many units will sell if this DVD is released letterbox vs.
pan-and-scan, how many DVD players have been sold to the American public, how many
complaints will be get if we stick commercials in front of our DVD feature films….

It’s time to strike a blow for individuality. I demand a boxed set of all
13 episodes of “The Prisoner.” I won’t allow myself to be labelled, stamped, sorted,
stapled, archived into the blurred mass of faceless consumers. I must seek
escape from the mindless routine and regular pace of my life in The Global Village. I
won’t be a pushover for Rovers of trite material to put on the next boxed set. I
will look forward to a energized, kinetic theme song that precedes episodes filled with
surreal landscapes and existential themes. I will enjoy viewing chapters filled with the
adventures of a lead character that explored his environment and questioned all that
he encountered, ultimately becoming victorious and discovering the
ultimate Truth.
This would be a smashing idea, don’t you think so, Number Two??
RE: I am not a number!
Fantastic! I will get more information on this release from the various
DVD resource web sites. I wonder if it will include any type of
commentary from Patrick McGoohan? It was pretty incredible for a
single actor to be so involved in the writing, acting and promoting of
such a ground-breaking TV series. I will be looking forward to it.
Thanks for the info!

9/28/2000 8:15:54 AM
What off-beat DVD box set should the studios release next?

RE: Star Blazers Anime Epic Collection
I have seen this collection (season 1) available
on VHS, but is sure takes up a lot of shelf space!! That’s the beauty of
DVD: a boxed set takes less than half the room of comparable VHS.

9/28/2000 8:28:47 AM

Which DVD offers the best special features?

Lost in Space
10/5/2000 12:38:51 PM

Forgive me for promoting what was to many a critical and box-office
disaster, but I LOVE THIS MOVIE! It used some pretty decent effects
and managed to update the original TV-series pilot for today’s movie
audience with great pacing and lots of suspense.
This was also the first feature-laden DVD that I bought. Today, it is
customary to see special editions with lots of supplemental material. But
this DVD came out during the days of “movie+trailer+text” editions. It
was a breath of fresh air.

From the very first menu, with its Jupiter II command console and cool
effects, you could tell that something special was coming next.
Here were storyboards of the various spacecraft, really-cool deleted
scenes, and multiple audio commentaries! (OK, the commentaries were a
bit lame, but it was cool to have them available).
Did I fail to mention the music videos and interviews with the principals
from the old show? How about an episode listing of the entire TV
series? And for the first time, you could follow the DVD-rom links to
additional content and even play fun Lost in Space video games. Oh
yes, they also included a “movie+trailers+text” on the disc.

It sold pretty well, and it set a precedent for all the special edition DVDs
that followed. For me, it was a great introduction to the world of DVD.
What are your favorite DVD hidden gems?

RE: Heat
10/30/2000 8:55:47 AM

I agree with you 100%.

It seems like “Heat” went from a top-rated release to the 9.99
discount bin very quickly.
It also became a discount ‘give-away’ at a lot
of the websites selling DVDs.
But it is one of the best films dealing with professional thieves and the
men that spend their lives trying to catch them. From the opening
scene with the armored-truck heist, to the final gun battle in the
streets of Hollywood, this is one movie that rocks not only with
action but with great character development.

And throw in the DeNiro/Pacino casting for a totally cool movie that
deserved a lot more credit than it got. And as you mentioned, the
visuals and the soundtrack make for an unforgettable movie
entertainment experience!
What electronics product would you most like to receive for the holidays?

White Noise Generator
12/5/2000 1:27:57 PM

Well, I could really use either a white noise generator or a
phase-shifting noise suppressor for my home theatre. It is difficult
to crank up the volume on my favorite movie without disturbing the
whole house (or the neighbors next door!) It would be great to be
able to enjoy the 5.1 channel sound now that I’ve bought the
equipment to make the surround-experience possible. But I don’t
want the wife or kids giving the ‘there goes Dad again’ look to me.
Their running for earplugs can’t possibly make me feel like the
protector of the family that I’m supposed to be. What must a man
do to make sure that his castle is compatible with the audio
demands of the latest digital entertainment?