When Did the VCR Become Popular?
When Did the VCR Become Popular?
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When Did the VCR Become Popular?

By Christian Roemer

Looking back on VCRs in the late 2010s, it’s hard to believe that anybody would have ever chosen to use such antiquated technology. They were loud, slow, and sometimes, a decent amount of labor just to get them working properly. Unlike vinyl record players, they’re one of those things that probably won’t ever come back into vogue.

But if you wound the clock back to the late 70s, you would see a different world filled with people who were amazed at the newest modern marvel: home videos.

Prior to the VCR, watching videos at home was basically nonexistent. TV was completely over the air, and your viewing habits were completely at the whims of the programmers working at your local TV stations. The VCR changed that by making videos at home possible, affordable, and ubiquitous.

So what’s the history?

VCR stands for videocassette recorder, and its meteoric rise correlates almost exactly with the VHS tape. But not quite.

VCRs were invented in the late 1950s, and they were basically a way for people to record things on TV. They were exorbitantly expensive at first, and since VHS tapes weren’t invented yet, they weren’t particularly convenient either. Like early computers, all sorts of competitors filled the marketplace trying to perfect the dream of cost-effective home video recorders. The mid 1970s is when the big players were whittled down to Sony and JVC. Sony pushed their technology, Betamax, and JVC pushed their technology, VHS.

I think we know how that one ended up.

How the VCR changed things.

While Sony and JVC battled for home video recording supremacy, something special happened: regular people at home could afford to watch whatever they wanted in the comfort of their living rooms. Because JVC was awesome and made VHS an open-patent product--meaning that they didn’t privatize the technology--a bunch of other companies jumped on the VHS format bandwagon and made Sony very sad.

You can’t win ‘em all, Sony.

With VHS’s victory, home videos proliferated. Companies were able to make much more affordable VCR units, making recording, creating, and watching home movies something that basically every household could afford. From the late 1970s to early 2000s, essentially every home had a VCR and a mountain of tapes to accompany it. Since all good things must come to an end, DVD players basically dethroned the VCR as the video format of choice in homes, and the last VCR was manufactured in 2016 (I know, right?!).

Even though VCRs would eventually become completely obsolete, they changed the way that people consumed media for forever. Prior to its invention, all content was served to customers on a programming basis. Someone else chose what came on TVs and when. With the rise of home movies, the people were given the power to choose what they wanted to watch, where they wanted to watch it, and even how they wanted to watch it.

Really, VCRs gave the power back to the people, and that’s something that every warm-blooded American can admit is a good thing.


Although VCRs maybe phasing out of the popularity trend, that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch and enjoy your home movies. With Legacybox, you can digitize your special moments, so you can relive them again and again. 

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