Nostalgia is a tough thing. If you enjoy the past too much you can get stuck there. At the same what is our life but a collection of memories both old and new? How do we find balance? It is in having these sorts of inner dialogues that one realizes just how important the past is. And for many people 30 (maybe 25) and up, the VCR was a crucial part of those memories. It was how we first experienced "home video." How we allowed our minds to be soaked in this wonderful thing called movies that would help shape the people we would grow up to be.
The VCR and VHS in general had a good run. Brought to market in the 1970s, the VCR would spawn the need for video stores. You remember them, those places where videocassettes lined the shelves and there was also that "special room" or section where the adult films resided. Yes, millennials, it used to be a lot of work getting to see porn that is now a mere click away.
Those little boxes played movies were standard home fare in the 1980s. When the price point went down this allowed us to have more than one VCR. More than one VCR meant more movies, which also meant the ability to copy movies (rental stores even sold videotapes while decrying piracy), which also meant the ability to edit movies as long as you didn't mind your cuts looking kinda weird and wavy.
Even into the 1990s, the VCR held on despite the arrival of DVD players and their obvious superior quality. In fact, it wasn't until the early 2000s that VCRs took their biggest hit. It was in 2003 that DVD rentals finally overtook videocassette rentals. In 2007, the big VCR makers finally decided to throw in the towel on the US market. However, it wasn't until very recently (and I mean within the last week or so) that Funai, the last company making VCRs, halted production. Wow, think about that. With nearly four decades for its lifespan, it is no surprise that VCRs inherit a special place in many of our hearts. As a result, I am giving you '9 Things I miss About The VCR'.
That Comforting Sound of Inserting the Tape
Remember that noise? It was almost as like a suction cup finally attaching itself to a preferred service. In many ways it was like your VCR was a pet and that noise was its way of thanking you for a treat. I have no research with which to back this up, but in some ways could this tiny, magical electronic device had helped spur on more electronic/interactive toys in the kids market. Might the VCR be the predecessor to the Furby or the Amazon Echo? DVD's make a similar noise but it's not the same. The VCR had a warmth to it. It occupied a centralized place in our homes. The DVD player was like a land developer entering this sacred zone and claiming eminent domain and "progress."
It was an All-In-One Player/Editor
In today's world, you buy a cellphone and with a few apps you have a veritable film studio in your pocket. In the 1980s, this wasn't the case by a long shot. However, if you had a video camera and two VCRs, you essentially had a movie studio. A crude movie studio but back then you took what you were given and didn't feel entitled to more. The cuts were often weird and wavy. Many of us young Speilbergs would refer to them as a glitch. However, this could be fixed, and if you spent a little more money, or used a camcorder (remember how big they used to be?), the dreaded glitch could be a thing of the past. Also, my parents bought a VCR in the very early 80s. This is thing had incredibly robust features. One of them being the ability to overdub audio! Yes, we could actually edit our movies and add narration and audio. We could even change audio on existing movies. Like everything, early VCRs were a bit more pricey. In order to make them ubiquitous, the VCR makers released stripped down versions at lower prices. Yes, this messed with our ability to do certain tricks, but it also meant we could have a lot more VCRs in our homes.
The Tracking Knob
Often times, when watching movies on videotape, the picture would often get weird and even fuzzy. Well, all you had to do was go over to the tracking knob, turn it a little bit, and viola! Your picture went back to normal. This even applied to old tapes that you had watched a bunch of times. Make no mistake, the tracking knob didn't always do to the trick. When it did, though, it was a wonderful moment. Okay, I will concede that DVDs, Blu-ray discs and streaming devices eliminated the need for this. At the same time, when those discs have issues it is a much bigger deal. Lets say you're watching a DVD or Blu-ray and a movie starts to skip. Well, you've got to clean it and hope that that does the trick. Well, if you're in the middle of a movie that can really take you out of the story. If you're streaming something from Netflix and your connection becomes slow for whatever reason, your picture can be highly pixilated, or worse, not play at all. The tracking knob allowed you to solve problems in real time WITHOUT having to turn off the movie.