Top 25 things vanishing from America: #18 -- The VCR


This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

Ever remember the daily pilgrimage to the video rental store for the latest release on VHS? It wasn't that long ago that we made that weekly or even daily trip to the video tape rental chain to get our fix for the latest new release on video tape (on VHS, of course). Or, if you remember the 80s, the Betamax. Although the Betamax reportedly had better quality in most ways, the VHS format won the day and became the de-facto video tape standard for business and even commercial use from the first time I can remember (in the late 1970s) until about 2002 or so, give or take.

Now we rent everything on DVD, from your Netflix queue that's managed online to the $1 Redbox rentals at your local McDonalds. Many of us may use video-on-demand from our cable or satellite provider to get those new movies on the flat-panel living room television. The VCR was not a video or audio champion like the DVD. In fact, in retrospect, the picture sucked and the audio couldn't even be encoded in 5.1 surround sound. Argh!

But, for the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The DVD supplied the playback with awesome video and audio quality, and the DVR is the recorder that grabs all your favorite shows and movies for you to watch at any time. No tapes, huge data storage amounts and very little effort to record and watch to your heart's content.

The only reason I still have that $30 eBay-purchased VCR I bought a few years ago was to take older movies from camcorders and other VHS sources to DVD so they could be preserved forever. In fact, the only remnants of the VHS age I can find at a local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack is blank tapes these days. Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are nowhere to be found. Unless you want to buy one of those dual-deck VCR/DVD players meant mostly for dubbing old tapes onto DVD, your luck finding a new VCR is pretty much toast. It was good while it lasted, ole' videotape. May I never hear the abbreviations SP and EP again. Peace.

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