The VCR is dead, Long Live the VCR:  A Tribute
Written by: Alex Sandell

On November 1st, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith will be the first major release that will not come out in VHS format -- only DVD (ironic, being that Star Wars:  Episode I - The Phantom Menace was one of the last major releases to be VHS only -- not DVD). That makes the nostalgic part of me (found around my belly button, and usually ignored) want to take a moment to express my love for the good old VCR. I still use my VCR at least 3 times a week -- that's 3 times more than I work out!

I can set up Dish Network, pick my favorite show, and program it to record all episodes, stick an 8 hour video tape in and the next 8 hour long episodes of my favorite show will be recorded. I can fast-forward commercials faster than I could during my brief flirtation with TiVO (I felt like I was having an affair). I can set it to record Washington Journal every morning, watch the show it taped for me, tape over it, do that time and time again about 100 days in a row until the tape fades, throw the tape out and do it again with a new tape (this also works great for late night shows).

My VCR isn't connected to the Internet, it doesn't monitor my viewing habits and it's never asks me to pay a monthly fee.  My videotapes have never been spit-out for having the wrong region code and I've never had to sign an "end-user agreement" to use one.  My VCR doesn't have triple-layered DRM to guarantee that it will always be more of a pain in the ass to watch a movie than it will be a good time.  I've never had to "upgrade" a videotape's codec to watch a video that I just purchased.  I've never had to download a "Service Pack" to fix the bugs in my VCR.  The VCR is durable, it's retro, it's reliable and it's just plain cool.

I'm not stuck in the past.  I'm up on the Ipods, the HDTV, the XBOX 360, the PS3 and the Nintendo Revolution.  I know all about the upcoming format war between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.  And I haven't purchased a pre-recorded videotape in over a decade.  I was an early adopter of the DVD player and I will probably adopt (IE - pay out of my ass) an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray machine early in their lifespan if, and only if, I am not required to go online to register my movies and only if Big Brother isn't studying my viewing habits to send me advertisements that fit "the way I live" (as if that could be figured out by monitoring what movies I watch). 

Wal-Mart and Target have announced that they will stop selling blank videotapes and pre-recorded videotapes next year.  Both are making room for the newer formats.  Technology constantly marches forward, but humans can always stop and take a moment to look back.  Just because something's new, doesn't necessarily mean that it's better.  The DVD format is far superior to VHS when it comes to watching movies.  But the next generation of DVD players may be moving in the wrong direction.  They seem corporate-based, rather than consumer. 

The VCR was always easy, even if most of them were perpetually set for 12:00 AM.  The VCR was always consumer-friendly.  The VCR is a memory of a bygone age, when the greedy studios didn't consider their customers guilty until proven innocent (even though they did make us fast-forward through those annoying FBI warnings, just in case).

The VCR is a moving photo-album.  Millions of hours of home movies made across the world.  From a wedding, to a birth, to a birthday party, to amateur porn filmed by mom and dad and hidden away from the kiddies (who always managed to find it, one way or the other).  The VCR took pornography out of unsafe and seedy theaters and put it into the family room.  The VCR introduced many to foreign films, anime and other stuff the multiplex would never bother with.  The VCR changed how we watch movies, and what movies we choose to watch. 

The VCR will always be a part of us, even if it is relegated to an overstuffed closet or musty attic.  The VCR will always be fondly remembered and will always hold fond memories.

The VCR is dead, long live the VCR!
-Alex Sandell

ęCopyright 2005 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].  Copy this without my permission and I'll have you taped over!