By: Chris Warren.
I came along at that perfect time where I’m old enough to know what life was like before digital technology took over the world and young enough to embrace the change. I owned vinyl records, and am now a iTunes fanboy. I had a car radio with mechanical presets, and now I’m addicted to SiriusXM and podcasts. I don’t miss phone books, even a little. I love the idea of making a few clicks on Amazon and a package magically appears at my door the very next day. Soon another piece of my analog past, the VHS video recorder, will roll off the assembly line and into multimedia history.
I was honestly surprised that VHS video recorders were still being made at all. I assumed they had gone out of production years ago. I can’t remember the last time I saw a new-in-the-box VHS in a store or on line, so I got curious and did a little looking around. Apparently they are still out there, but not for much longer. Soon the only way to get a VHS video recorder will be on the used market because the last company to manufacture them, Funai of Japan, is ending VHS’ run forever.
The VHS recorder is officially if not belatedly about to become yet another broken down old junk on the information superhighway.
Those young enough to think that having high definition video no further than the smartphone in their hand is a normal expectation of life might have a hard time grasping what a breakthrough VHS was. The machines were big, heavy, and expensive. They were mechanical devices and prone to breakdown. They required a mess of wires, adapters, and plugs. The picture and sound quality was dismal by today’s standards. But the ability to record programs and watch them later, or watch them over and over, was something that had not been possible until the VHS recorder came along.
Imagine the drudgery of having to sit in front of your television at a certain time and date to see your favorite show. If you missed it, or wanted to see it again, you were out of luck until the episode came around in reruns, at which time you would still be tied to the schedule of the network programmers.
VHS was the on-demand programming of its day and had a social appeal that does not transfer over to digital media. As a teenager, me and a bunch of friends would hole up in my parents’ basement with a borrowed VHS recorder, some sugary-caffeinated drinks, cheap Little Caesar’s pizza, and a pile of rented tapes. I don’t know how many times we watched Mad Max and Spinal Tap in glorious analog on a tube TV. The party, such as it was, would usually last until 3 or 4 in the morning.
Those great times would not have happened without the then-innovative VHS recorder. Yet, as great as the new technology was, home video entertainment still required enough effort & expense that it was something of a special occasion.
Kids today will never suffer the archaic process of getting up to adjust the tracking to get a decent picture and having to rewind and change the tape when the movie was over, much less the now absurd transaction of renting physical tapes. I can hear my nine year old nephew’s incredulous voice now: You mean you actually had to get in the car and go pick up the video tapes? From where? And then bring them back when you were done? By the way, what is a video tape?
Technology rapidly rolls forward and the VHS recorder is officially if not belatedly about to become just another broken down old junk on the information superhighway. As I type this article I’m lounging on my couch with a laptop computer connected to wifi, smartphone at my side, watching my large flat screen high definition TV with Bluetooth speakers. Yeah, I had a good run with VHS recorders back in the day. The memories of fun times with my friends mean something to me but the new stuff is so far and away better that I have no such nostalgia for VHS recorders. Like floppy disks and phone books, VHS’ time has passed and we who lived through it are just fine with letting it become a fading dot in the rear view mirror.
5 thoughts on “VHS Video Rewinds For The Last Time.”
Guilty as charged. Anyone interested in some old VHS movies I taped years ago? Bogart & Bacall movies like Big Sleep (’46), Dark Passage (’47), To Have and Have Not (’44), Key Largo (’48) and Treasure of the Sierra Madre (‘…we don’t need no stink’in badges!’). Just kidding, I’ll hold on to then for awhile yet. I still have a VHS that works, along w/ a std DVD player. I’ll have to admit, they don’t get much use anymore, but every now and then… 😉
I remember VHS Video Recorders very well, Chris. In fact, when they first hit the market in the UK (back in the 80s) I was working in a Television rental store. I remember very well unpacking the first video recorder and setting it all up. Keys having to be pushed down hard and sometimes having to untangle the video tape from the machine. And, how we got fed up when people had not rewound the tapes! I remember how popular Video Rental stores became and how disappointing it was when they didn’t have the movie you wanted to watch because all the copies were out with other customers.
I got rid of all my VHS tales many years ago, but recently read that some fetch a lot of money on eBay and other online auction sites. They seem to have become collector items. I wonder if Smart Phones and laptops will ever go that way?
That’s a great link, Hugh. Yes, there is still a collector market out there. The value of some of those tapes will go up as the technology becomes more rare.
I wonder if DVD discs will go the same way now that we are encouraged to stream everything?
I’m pretty sure that DVDs will eventually be dumped too. Netflix is just too dang convenient!
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