Another One Bites the Dust

Another era has come to an end. Surely you’ve heard the news by now that the last VHS tape player has been manufactured. The consumer video cassette recorder market is no more.

It seems amazing that the VHS player/recorder was still being produced. The last studio release in VHS format was in 2006 and the last blank cassettes were sold two years later. But its longevity shouldn’t surprise you. JVC’s VHS format’s biggest competition in video tape, Sony’s Betamax, saw its machines cease production in 2002 but still manufactured blank Betamax format tapes until March of this year!

If you thought VHS and Beta were the only two choices in home video tape you are wrong. At one point there were 13 different tape formats. In the late seventies while the early tape formats bid war against each other, the LaserDisc format was also vying for space in home theaters claiming, and providing, superior video and audio than the available tape formats but not able to record. The maker of the last VHS player, Funai Electric (you might know as Sanyo) entered the video market making players in its own format, the Compact Video Cassette (CVC) in 1983.

Today everybody can take movies with their phones. Fifty years ago, handheld 8mm film cameras captured cherished family moving memories. In between them, young fathers exercised their arm and back muscles as they hoisted bulky VHS format cameras, basically video recorder/players with lenses, onto their shoulders. The advantage was that you could go home from the football game, dance recital, high school musical, or family reunion volley ball tournament and watch the proceedings on your television right then. A true modern miracle.

Various compact formats (Video8, MiniDV, MicroMV) made for smaller handheld cameras and the miniDVD format brought disc recording to the amateur videographer. Phones and digital cameras take DVD or better quality movies. But the proliferation of video streaming services may make any in home “movie player” obsolete before too long.

Until then, I better start looking for DVD or BluRay versions of my personal favorites that I still have in VHS. Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are all available on disk. But where will I ever find a digital copy of the 1935 version of Scrooge starring Sir Seymour Hicks? (Great version, really. Look it up.) Well, that’s what flea markets and garage sales are for.

That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?



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