Most people I know haven’t thought about using a VCR or VHS tapes as a way to watch movies in years. Even the VHS’ replacement format, DVD, is an older technology and has declined a bit in light of HD discs, streaming content, and other digital media. Granted, my mom still watches old VHS tapes, but I’d venture to guess that most of you reading this haven’t had use for the format in some time. It may or not surprise you, then, to know that there is a company out there that still produces VCR’s.
At least, until the end of this month.
A Japanese company, Funai Electric, has finally come to a point at which creating the machines of this bygone technology is no longer profitable, and will cease production on new VCR’s in less than two weeks from the day of this post. Actually, so far as I know, they may have pulled the plug on the ol’ gal already. Fortune.com has a good article on this end-of-an-era event, covering a bit of the history of the technology of home video recording. It’s a bit odd to think that VCR’s have lasted this long in production. I remember when DVD’s first hit the shelves at the video store (which is saying that I also remember video stores), and they were allocated to just a few sparse rows — not necessarily for a lack of interest, but because the number of titles at first were so minimal. I was lucky enough to work in a video store, good ol’ Blockbuster, during a time period which allowed me to witness the slow death of VHS firsthand: first the DVD’s pushed onto more and more shelves, then up crawled their way onto the New Release wall, until finally we only received one or two VHS copies of big movie releases… a pale comparison to the hundreds of DVD’s that filled the shelves.
Of course, I also returned to work at Blockbuster and witnessed the crumbling of the video store, itself, so to everything turn, turn, turn :).
Aside from the economic and historical experiences, a good chunk of my childhood memories revolve around VHS cassettes, as well. My dad bought our first video camera when my sister was born, so 5-year-old Mark got his first taste of stardom way back in 1985. I used that same camera to make my very first movie when I was 9 or 10, and then filled countless VHS tapes with the many, many horrible beginning movies that followed. I was happy to move on to newer technologies as they arrived, recording my cinematic creations on smaller Hi-8 tapes and enjoying the heck out of the clarity and durability of DVD’s, but who knows where I’d be right now, creatively, without access to such an easy-to-record technology at my fingertips.
The nostalgic in me would kind of like to pick up one of these final VCR’s, as the format has played such a substantial role in my life — from the first movie I made to my first job slinging video rentals — but I’m a little more practical than that. I think, instead, I’ll simply write a little blog post in honor of the VCR, and always remember that era, for better and worse, with a fond smile :).