Thursday, August 11, 2016

Goodbye VCR: Last video cassette recorder made in Japan in July; transfer and digitise your video tapes while you still can.

If you still have wedding videos, old Wielie Walie episodes, kids school concert or other precious videotape memories on video casettes you should better finally start transferring them to DVD disks or video digitise it now: the very last video casette recorder (VCR) was made last month.

Japan's Funai Electric that claims that it was the world's last manufacturer of VCRs, says that it finally ended production of VHS players in July for the Sanyo VCR and other worldwide brands that were all made in the same Japanese factory.

The ongoing worldwide decline in VCR sales - surpassed by digital video recorders (DVRs) and built-in pay-TV set-top box recorders like MultiChoice's DStv PVR - has made parts for the analogue technology too expensive and difficult to source, Funai Electric told the Nikkei newspaper.

It brings to an end JVC's beloved VHS recording technology that debuted in 1976 and truly democratised the TV consumer's viewing experience.

The VCR not only made time-shifted viewing and repeat viewing possible but also created a lucrative "second window" in the home entertainment market.

It's the VCR - and its perpetually blinking "00:00" of millions of people who could never bother with figuring out how to actually set and programme a VCR - that started and fueled TV viewers' obsession with time-shifted and on-demand viewing.

The cheap and relatively easy to use technology not only made time-shifted viewing possible - it shifted the power of video content consumption to the now liberated consumer who suddenly got control over when and what to watch on television - freed from pre-determined broadcast schedules.

Now viewers could get TV shows they've never watched, wanted to watch again, or keep, on cassette (that eventually led to DVD box sets) - but also X-rated adult films, as well as cinema releases and the "workout video" - all of which led to the creation of the video rental store and phrases like "be kind, rewind".

The "camcorder" also liberated amateur backyard film makers, shakily recording anything from family moments and holidays and even changing and influencing television itself with shows like America's Funnies Home Videos.

Yet, even great technology, over time becomes obsolete and gets replaced with better technology. Since the introduction of DVDs in 1997, VCR sales plunged. According to Funai Electric, only 750 000 VCRs were sold worldwide in 2015.

While VCRs and blank VHS tapes are still sold in retail they're becoming more and more scarce and will soon entirely disappear.

Consumers should digitise the content of their VHS tapes with a VHS to DVD Converter before they lose it forever.