How digital TV will kill off the VCR

Start transferring your VHS tapes to DVD if you want to watch all of those old movies you have when the nation's analog TV signals change to digital transmissions in mid-June.

Unless you can pop for a new VCR with a digital tuner or can find some way to jerry-rig your old VCR, those video tapes will be as useless as Betamax tapes were in the '80s, according to a Contra Costa Times story.

DVDs replaced video tapes years ago at video rental stores, but 72% of U.S. households with a TV also have a VCR, according to the research group Nelson. Just 24% of TV-owning households have the new way to record -- the digital video recorder, or DVR.

DVD recorders are expensive. DVRs usually work with pay TV systems and require a monthly fee.

Only the latest VCR models have digital tuners. So most of the VCRs that are in homes can't be used to tune in digital signs, either from the airwaves or from a cable provider. To continue recording TV, most VCR owners will have to use a cable set-top or broadcast converter box to translate digital signals into analog ones that the VCR can understand.

That will create more hassles, such as not allowing one program to be watched while another is recording, and the converter device won't allow particular channels to be recorded at specific times.

There are work-arounds, such as having a second converter box hooked up to the TV instead of the VCR, or splitting the incoming video signal. Either way, it's going to be a hassle.

In my house, we have a VCR that is almost never used anymore in one room, and a DVR hooked up to a newer TV in the living room. Once the digital conversion happens, I suspect we'll just throw those old movies away that we have on video tape. We rarely watch them anyway.

Maybe that's the best upside to this digital conversion: Less junk.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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