With a recent surge in purchases, it appears the technology graveyard has opened up its doors to the good old VCR.
The VCR player first made its grand entry into the market in the mid 70’s, taking the lead over Laserdisc and Betamax players. It was the new kid on the block, and everyone HAD to have one!
Back then, you had to connect your VCR to a television set in order to watch a recording.
The enchanting thing about this gadget was the fact that you could record your favorite TV shows and programs to watch at a later date. It wasn’t called a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) for nothing. This may not seem like much for you Millennials and Gen Z’ers, but at the time it was the ONLY way to make sure you never missed and episode.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to find out what made the VHS so special — and more importantly, where and how you can find a VCR today!
Related: Best VHS Players Reviewed
June 1977. The announcement that video cassette players would be coming to North America was front page news. The price back then for this amazing new entertainment device? Over $1000!
Invented in Japan by JVC in 1975, the Video Home System (VHS) became popular in the 1980’s and early 1990’s (and prices dropped), before they were replaced by DVD players. Towards the end of their popularity, VCRs went through a number of refinements and change of design, but the new technology wave had taken over and they were soon left behind.
At this time there were no streaming services, so if you were not home to watch a show and missed it, you were out of luck until it came around as a re-run. But with a VCR, you could record your shows for later — as long as you could figure out how to work the timer that is!
And if you are a Boomer or Gen X’er, you probably have those recorded tapes stored somewhere in your garage, basement or closet and it wouldn’t hurt to revive the pleasures of back in the day. Or perhaps you have boxes of home movies and have no idea what’s on them…
But without a VCR player, it might be difficult to watch the recordings. Some people were thoughtful enough to transfer data from their VCRs to DVDs when they started flooding the market so they could hang onto their memories for longer. But most of us simply packed our beloved tapes into boxes for “some day.”
The Domination of VHS Tape
In the early days of VCRs, there were two main contenders — VHS tapes and Sony Betamax tapes. However, it wasn’t long before VHS won the popularity contest. And our beloved VHS players dominated the market for close to 3 decades. We bet a lot of people still have some embarrassing home videos of their childhood stored away somewhere. Not to mention all those adorable “baby’s first” moments, travel footage and holiday gatherings.
Believe it or not, making home movies started long before TikTok, Facebook and the Gram. Yeah, without mobile phones we needed to bring along the Camcorder (which was no ease fete in the early days because they were so big), but it was a great way for families to come together and laugh over the videos they created.
VHS slowly proved to be versatile in the movie industry as it became the best format for buying and selling movies. Among the most famous movies on VHS are Lion King, The Godfather and Titanic. The psychological thriller A History of Violence gained a lot of popularity because it was the last movie that was released on VHS.
VHS made hanging out with friends and family worthwhile. All you had to do was rent a video, order pizza, make some popcorn and then sit down and enjoy your movie. It was not as convenient as the modern day, because you literally had to walk into the video store, unlike now when you only have to scroll through a list of films on Netflix and choose the appropriate one.
However, the thrill of meeting up with friends who also went out to rent movies was part of the fun. Friday night fun almost always began with a trip to the video store (do you remember those 3 day rental promotions?). When someone suggested, “Why don’t we rent a movie?” there was something special about it, perhaps because of the extra effort it required (or maybe because it wasn’t as easy as it is today).
Walking through the shelves filled with a myriad of movie titles was in itself therapeutic, to say the least. Wandering through the aisles, trying to make a decision, was part of the experience. As wonderful as modern technology is, in some ways we have lost part of the “magic” of watching movies at home with the decline of brick and mortar rental stores like Blockbuster.
VHS was soon phased out by the Digital Video Disc (DVD), probably the technology that kick-started the digital era. You had to have a DVD player in order to watch a program or film on DVD. In the early days of the DVD, the majority of the new machines were DVD VHS combo players which gave people the ability to watch both mediums.
Even with DVD players in the market, a lot of people still hang on to VHS, but they slowly gave in too. It was possible to transfer a movie from VHS to DVD, but it would take a lot of time to complete. Considering all the VHS collections many people had, it became a task that people avoided — hence all the boxes of VHS tapes stored away, just waiting to be enjoyed again.
So, Can You Buy a VCR Player Today?
The simple answer is yes!
You see, although there are no longer manufacturers that produce VCRs, these golden gadgets can still be found on sale on Amazon and other retailers! And the cost is 100% affordable. You can also find them at flea markets and yard sales, however the problem with this route is that you have no guarantee that the player work (and there are no returns).
By the way, in order to get a VHS tape player to work on modern TVs you will probably need to pick up either an audio video cable or a video converter (unless you still have one tucked away in a junk box or drawer somewhere).
You don’t have to throw away those old tapes that can take you back in time and give you a few moments of nostalgia. This can also be a great way to show your children how technology back in the day was totally different from what they have now.
While you are at it, since one of the downsides of VHS tapes is that they deteriorate over time, we strongly recommend that you take the time to convert your favorites to digital — before they are lost forever!
It’s not as difficult as it used to be and today you have the choice of transferring your content to either DVDs or to files that can be saved on your computer or a portable drive.
The three most common ways of transferring VHS tapes to digital are using a VHS DVR player with recording capabilities, using a video converter or VHS transfer software, and sending your precious tapes out to a Video Tape Transfer Service. If your VHS tapes are showing signs of age, such as mold or heat damage, we recommend sending them out to a professional service if they contain priceless family memories.
You may also want to pick up a VHS rewinder too. These handy devices are not just a matter of convenience. They will save wear and tear on the motor of your VCR player, which is especially since they are getting harder to find.
Make some popcorn and enjoy a blast from the past!