Before Netflix and the saturated list of “+” streaming services, prior to Blu-ray and DVD players, we had the VCR. A magical little (well, maybe not so little) rectangular box that played our favorite VHS tapes we all rented from Blockbuster.
It was the king of movie players throughout the 1980s, all the way until the mid-90s.
But what was the VCR really? What did those three letters actually stand for? We’re about to find out. So, let’s be kind and rewind it back to a simpler time in the mid-70s when a little video cassette tape player called the Sony Betamax was released.
The Betamax tape format was supposed to be the device to usher in a new form of home theater entertainment. While that dream was eventually (read: quickly) squashed by the VHS, which came out less than two year later, Betamax still ushered in the pivotal era of the VCR. Or should we say, Video Cassette Recorder? And, while the Betamax’s VCR wasn’t the VHS model we all came to know and love over the coming decade plus, (kind of a love/hate really … blasted rewinding and tracking), it did set the future standard.
For the first time, consumers could record shows and TV programs onto video tapes using the VCR. It seems like a trivial thing to get excited about nowadays with on-demand, streaming services and everything digital at our fingertips (or more appropriately in the cloud), but it was revolutionary for the time. Chances are, if you were a kid of the 80s or 90s, you probably did your own fair share of recording TV movies on your VCRs. Most likely, one of you was that brother in the family who wanted to record his Saturday morning X-Men cartoons, so you grabbed your sister’s ballet recital tape and hit record without so much as a second thought. For me, I had a recorded copy of Jurassic Park that I watched on repeat. Fast-forwarding through the commercials never felt more empowering as an eight year old.
Unfortunately, for the beloved VCR and VHS duo, time and technology finally caught up. By the late 90s, the DVD was on the rise and the VHS/VCR was hastily skidding on the decline. Several TV manufacturers even made DVD/VCR TV player combos to help usher in the passing of the torch, but by 2006 the VHS was effectively weaned out of production when A History of Violence became the last Hollywood production to be released on VHS.
But, let’s not dwell on the end of the VCR. Let’s remember the Video Cassette Recorder for what it was – a technological triumph for a past era.
What were some of your favorite shows/movies you recorded using your VCR?