Trying to keep up with high-tech change

I suppose you reach a certain age when you don't want to be seen as being as outmoded.

I remember at a former newspaper where I worked in London, there was a sectioned off area of the office for journalists, whose glories were perhaps more in the past than the present, that was referred to by everyone - apart from its inhabitants - as Jurassic Park.

Feeling too much like I was following in the wake of these Jurassics (a number of them now late lamented), I set off recently to buy a DVD player in Beijing.

I needed to replace my old model since its lasers were worn and would now only play higher-quality discs.

A relatively simple task, you would assume. I had meant to buy one from my nearby department store a year ago but had recently discovered it had delisted them.

Never mind, my local store of the electronics retailer Suning would surely come to the rescue. But no, it didn't have any either.

You also got a slight sense its employees viewed my request with a certain wry amusement, as though I had asked for a Sony Walkman or a VHS recorder. I suppose the laughter in my earshot on my departure was the clue.

There was nothing for it but a visit to the big electronics market at Zhongguancun.

When I first came to Beijing, I was almost more impressed by this market than even some of the city's great historical monuments.

It seemed a veritable Aladdin's cave on a scale that I had never quite seen anywhere else.

It was as though you could have asked for any gadget, even an Edison telegraph machine, and someone would tootle off and find one on a dusty shelf while you sat on a stool drinking tea.

Yet even obtaining a DVD player (still 21st century technology, although in a very fast-moving century) this time was something of an ordeal. The problem is that most Chinese now just download movies from the Internet or subscribe to Internet TV services that have film libraries.

Trying to keep up with high-tech change

While this trend might also be happening in the West, the actual players still do exist.

My specification was for a Chinese-made one because they have the capability of playing even a Frisbee, at least according to a friend of mine.

I was successful after inquiring with at least 20 stalls. But I would have to pay a deposit and come back after a week.

I regretted not ordering two because I fear the DVD player will not be around at all the next time I may need one.

Over a much-needed Americano in the Starbucks within the complex, I reflected that the electronics market was not as before.

Certainly, there were fewer shoppers, despite it being a weekend. Why endure a long journey on the subway to buy a PC or a TV set when you can get the equivalent at perhaps a better price and with more of a guarantee from or other online retailers?

The pace of change in Chinese retail is such, it is hard not to feel something of a Jurassic relic.

By Andrew Moody (China Daily)

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