Poll: Do You Still Have a VCR?

Once the centerpiece of any home entertainment system, the antiquated Video Cassette Recorder is now a relic of times past, if not a laughingstock. Do you still have or use a VCR?

I have a habit of clinging to old technology. I still kept a VCR in my home theater system up until last year, and actually put it to use when I did my David Lynch marathon in 2012. (Honestly, that was the first time the device had been fired up in several years.) Nevertheless, when I moved to a new house and built my home theater room, I just couldn’t justify keeping the VCR connected. My last player is currently collecting dust in the attic. I don’t foresee needing to use it again anytime soon.

Shamefully, I must admit that the only completed copies of my film school senior project still exist only on VHS. Although I shot the film on 16mm, the picture and audio were never merged together except on tape. I’ve resisted transferring it to a digital format, even though I’m well aware that the tape copies will degrade (and may not even be playable anymore). Something about the impermanence of the format appeals to me, and it’s not like I ever plan to show the film to anyone ever again.

For as many drawbacks as the VHS format had and as terrible as its quality was, I have many fond memories from my youth of trolling the aisles of my local video store searching for movies to watch on a lazy weekend. That’s an experience my kids will never have, which is kind of a shame.

Do You Still Have a VCR?

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42 comments

  1. T.J. Kats

    It’s interesting that this is the topic. Today would have been my mother in laws birthday and my wife is going to visit her sister this weekend. She asked me this morning if we had one so that she can take it with her along with one of the few tapes we have so that they can watch it and have a “birthday celebration” this weekend.

  2. Mike

    It pains me that you haven’t transferred your thesis to a new format to preserve it. Also reminds me that I need to do the same thing with all my 16 sync sound projects. That’s been on my to do list for way too long.

    • Chris B

      Yeah Josh, what’s the story with your thesis? How come it will never see the light of day? Are you just that unsatisfied with the way it turned out? Has it not aged gracefully?

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        Yes, and yes. It’s a student film. It’s not worth watching.

        Also, it was based on a short story from a popular author that I never attempted to officially license in any way (not that I could have afforded to at the time anyway). So, even if it had turned out great, I couldn’t legally distribute it if I wanted to.

        • Chris B

          I see, if you don’t mind me asking, what was it that made you decide not to pursue a career in filmmaking?

          For years I was convinced I would take film studies in Vancouver after I graduated high school. However, after staring down the barrel of a 20,000 a year in tuition for four years and somewhat dicey job prospects when I was finished, I erred on the side of caution and went to trade school instead. It’s afforded me a good living, although sometimes I wonder if I would have been better off rolling the dice.

          A few years back I met a girl that had gone to film school in both Halifax and Montreal and had incurred a crazy amount of debt only to graduate and come to find out the film industry (at least in Canada according to her) is rather insular and more “who you know than what you know”. As a result she seriously regretted her post-secondary choices.

          I was just curious if the industry tends to be like that everywhere, or do some people just complete the schooling and decide to take a different career path…

          • Josh Zyber
            Author

            What I found is that I enjoyed watching movies way more than making them, which is a very grueling and unsatisfying process. And yes, the film industry everywhere is based on who you know, not how talented you are.

  3. William Henley

    Interesting topic might be do you still have camcorder tapes laying around (8mm, VHS-C, DV) and the camcorder to play them.

    I had a SVHS up until the fire last year, and fired it up from time to time. The biggest reason for not converting them to DVD was because a stop or a pause on the tape would throw the audio and video out of sync on the digital copy. Most of the tapes had been professioally converted to DVD, but not all. My parents have copies of those

    Luckily for me, most of the tapes that were not converted my parents also have copies of on tape. We should probably finish having stuff converted

      • William Henley

        I’ve tried this, and even still, if you have a 2 hour tape, with maybe 20, 30, 50, 100 pauses and stops, as most of our tapes have, it is a ton of trouble. Easiest to just pay someone $20 a tape to do it for you.

  4. I still use my VCR to tape tv-shows! I don’t have digital TV (yet), so … yeah. And I’ll always keep my collection of old-time pre-recorded VHS tapes. I love old technology. Big fan of Betamax, too, although my last player died. Still looking for a replacement unit.

    Was this poll inspired by ‘True Blood’ and its mistake in portraying 1996-era video stores? 🙂

  5. Lord Bowler

    I still have a VCR, but have only used it to transfer the last batch of Tapes that haven’t been released on any new format or from Camcorder Tapes.

    Otherwise, it’s mostly collecting dust.

  6. Bill

    I still have a VCR (Super VHS) but I doubt that it will ever be used again. The last use was to convert my few remaining VHS tapes to DVD-Rs. Once that was done the VCR was put away on a shelf in the cold room in the basement. I would only use it if I were to come across some VHS material that should/must be preserved on disc. The likelihood of that happening at this late date is very very low. When I look back today on the PQ and AQ of provided by VCRs I become even more amazed at how far home video has progressed in really such a short time.

  7. Chris B

    Ahhhhh the beloved VCR, sure we may scoff at the poor quality now (what was it? 285 horizontal lines per frame?!), but any movie buff born in the 80’s or earlier cut their teeth on one of these relics. It must have been quite the revelation to only be able to see films in a theatre or in broadcast TV, and then all the sudden this new device makes it possible to watch what you want when you want. Although I think CED videodisc may have even predated VHS and Beta I don’t think enough of us owned a player for it to make near the impact VCRs had.

    I hear you on the video store memories Josh. My family moved to a new town the summer before I started grade 7 an all the sudden I knew noone. I had always loved movies, but I remember that summer in particular walking down to the rental place and cashing in on 7 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks-type deals a hell of a lot.

    When I moved out of my folks place years ago I had moved on to DVD and felt no need to cart the VCR with me to my crappy apartment.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      CED “SelectaVision” was a very short-lived format that was only sold from 1981 to 1986, and CED players were discontinued even earlier in 1984. VHS debuted in Japan in 1976, and the USA in 1977. Laserdisc (as “DiscoVision”) premiered in late 1978.

      You are entirely correct, however, that not enough people owned either CED or LD to make even remotely the impact that VHS had. Being able to watch movies at home, on your own schedule (not beholden to broadcast network scheduling, censorship or commercial interruptions), and with the ability to pause, fast-forward or rewind scenes at will, was a major sea change in the way that movies were consumed. The novelty of that greatly outweighed questions of quality – of which frankly no one was really savvy enough to discern at the time anyway.

    • William Henley

      Video tape came out in 1951. The first consumer model was introduced in 1971. Beta and VHS both came out in 1976, so apparently there was a format (UMatic?) that was available in home before either Beta or VHS was released. I’ve seen UMatics before had no clue what they were at the time

      • As coincidence would have it, I found a U-Matic tape last month in an abandoned warehouse. I didn’t know what it was either, but the nerds on the LaserDisc Forever! forum helped me out.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          Someone should probably tell the owners of that forum that I hold the copyright on the name “Laserdisc Forever,” and it’s not cool for them to just lift it because they like it.

      • Thayne S.

        I still have a professional U-matic player and tapes! They were work horses in their day and they were used in broadcasting extensively! I left a TV station in 1999 that was still broadcasting programming off the 3/4 inch U-matic format. The first time I had ever worked with one is in Junior High school back in 1975. That’s a pretty long run for a format!

        • William Henley

          Those things were workhorses. The church I grew up in, we did all video production in the 70s and 80s on UMatic, then in the 90s we went to SVHS, because they were cheaper and had better resolution. Around 2005, they went to DVD-Rs.

          The church I am at now uses DV and DVD-Rs for backup, but the main streams are recorded on XD, BD-Rs and harddrives. All 11 cameras are recorded on Harddrives for post editing. Our media department shoots on RED

          Its crazy to think of how far we have come. UMatics had 250 lines of resolution, then to SVHS at 400 lines of resolution, then DVD at 720×480 (or 720×576 for PAL), then 1920×1080, and now even some stuff at 4k or 5k resolutions, and we can fit a couple of hours of 5k video at 60fps on a SD Card (well, dramatically less if we are recording raw), versus those huge UMatics with an hour of recording time.

          • What does your church film?
            (no, really, I’m curious. The church in my neighbourhood doesn’t film anything, ever. They just give sermons, and that’s it.)

          • William Henley

            Oh Boy, Julian, that is a huge question.

            Let’s start by saying my old church filmed the entire service, and we broadcast on community access cable. They may just be doing sermon now – the church was smaller, and getting rights to broadcast music can be a pain.

            You are right, most churches do just do sermons. It is the one thing that they have control over the copyrights on.

            The church I am at now is a megachurch (we average over 30,000 people a weekend). We have 5 campuses locally, a university and a campus in another state. 4 of the five local campuses have video production facilities, as well as the university. We broadcast live online, occasionally broadcast live over the Daystar Network (its available via satelite and many cable operators worldwide – and in fact, we are live broadcasting this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – if you are interested, look up Gateway Student Conference). We also have a weekly television show called The Blessed Life that airs on three different networks (Daystar, TBN – Trinity Broadcast Network, and one other that I cannot remember the name of). We film concerts (our own team has released three DVDs and one Blu-Ray, although I also filmed a few big name concerts that came to town), we have filmed a couple of comedy videos for Michael Jr, conferences, childrens and youth events, young adult services, musicals, we JUST filmed a series for the Institute for Creation Research which they are going to be selling, classes. I also just helped film the pilot for a talk show (I really cannot go into details about that)…. You name it, we film it. We generate about 5 terabytes of data a week (possibly more). The server farms and SANs are really something to behold.

            Rather than bombarding Josh with 16 links to approve (and spaming the board), I decided to just provide two links to a couple of our Youtube channels

            https://www.youtube.com/user/gatewayworship
            This is the channel for our worship team. They travel world wide performing. All the songs in there were written and copyright held by our church.

            https://www.youtube.com/user/gatewaychurchtv
            This is mostly sermons and clips, although there is other stuff there

            If you are really interested in other stuff, Google Search the following (so I don’t have to bombard Josh with a ton of links):
            Gateway Conference Videos
            Gateway Students Podcast
            Mens Summit Videos
            Pink Impact Videos
            Also you can go to The Blessed Life DOT com
            and Gatewaypeople DOT com and look under the Media link, and also Events / Habitation link will take you to a page of full services with music (I know that page is not pretty)
            We don’t have a lot of the kids stuff online, but you can go to Youtube and search “Gateway Next” – they have released two albums, and there should be a couple of videos online with the kids worship team performing a couple of their songs

            So I know you asked a simple question, and that was a complicated answer. The answer is, we film EVERYTHING.

  8. Jason

    I keep my copy of Rad loaded in my VCR. Whenever someone comes over to scoff that I still have it hooked up I just press play and if they’re old enough after a few minutes of Rad they realize why.

  9. I’m under the impression that VHS, not unlike LaserDisc, also benefitted greatly from ‘better players’ with ‘better tapes’ and vice versa. Our 1989 Panasonic ($1000 back then! Adjust that to inflation!) still works like a charm, and certain tapes (Disney’s The Lion King comes to mind) do look, well, good. Other tapes are just a murky mess – but maybe they were from the beginning?
    Other players in the family household (I do believe my parents still have three decks) don’t offer such vibrant colours. Could also be a case of PAL vs. NTSC.

    Then again, Betamax blows most VHS copies out of the water (better reds, better blues).

  10. My wife and I do still actually have our VCR — hooked up, even! We keep it around for the few movies we have that STILL haven’t been released on Blu-ray or even DVD for that matter. It’s hard, though. Watching anything on it is a painful experience for the eyes these days.

  11. Chris Williams

    Man, it has been a while. I think I got rid of my last VCR player back in 2004 when the Star Wars trilogy was released on DVD for the first time. I think the last movie I ever bought on VHS was Titanic.

  12. I certainly miss the “video store”. There is something to be said for going out and spending 30 minutes looking around and maybe finding something that you hadn’t seen before. Now it’s ALL at our fingertips and somehow, it’s taken a little of the fun out of it for me. Nostalgia is all it is, but it’s still kind of sucks to have that lost forever.

    • Chris B

      I TOTALLY agree man, when me and my wife first started dating (about ten years ago now) there was a video store right next to our neighborhood chinese food restaurant. On Friday or Saturday nights we’d order some grub, walk next door and pick out a few flicks, pick the food up and head back for a quiet night in. The store went out of business about 4 years ago and as it stands there’s only one left in the entire city now where we live. The “hunt” was half the fun, more enjoyable than browsing Netflix or an On Demand menu….

  13. I have a an old Philips in my bedroom that I use mainly for the clock. In my living/ family room I have a Panasonic dvd recorder/ VCR that I still haven’t used to turn my old vhs tapes into DVD. When VHS 2 was still on on-demand, I actually taped it on vhs and watched it that way with my nephews. I thought it was kind of cool to watch a movie called vhs on vhs.

  14. Chris B

    One thing (in addition to many others) I don’t miss about VHS is the video store always bitching at you to rewind the tape before you return it. They had special machines at the store to do that, why should the consumer wear out their VCR rewinding the stores tapes?

  15. Paul J Anderson

    I have a JVC HM-DH4000U D-VHS player that I still boot up from time to time to ensure it still works. I bought it circa 04-05 so I could record HD tv shows, but didn’t realize until afterwards that it would only record OTA broadcasts unless my cable provider supported the Firewire outputs on my cable box. They did not, so it basically became a glamorous VHS player in my media console. Prior to its purchase I had a S-VHS player and other VHS players that I had used to record 100s of tapes. They still play well and some look ok, (S-VHS) when viewing on my plasma. One of these days I will use the D-VHS to transfer the tapes to my Mac via the component outs and my Hauppaugge HD-PVR. I have done a couple of transfers already and they look about as good as can be expected.

    Oh, and I still have my Pioneer CLD-D606B laserdisc player as well 😉

  16. Sounds like ole Josh pulled a Star Trek TNG episode with his 16mm film days.
    Shoot it on film, do the final edit in a very-low-def format and become discouraged to ever make a new master. Hell, does anyone have 16mm anymore?

    My vcr sits unplugged and not connected, I wonder if it even works anymore or if it would eat the first tape I feed it?

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      The project was actually edited on film, but I never had it negative-cut. Its final state was a workprint spliced together with tape at every edit. The audio mix also existed on separate mag stock that was never merged to the picture in a composite print. For the class’ year-end screening, everyone’s films were transferred to video (on BETA) where the sound was finally sunk. After the screening, each student was given a VHS dub for a personal copy.

      If I’d wanted to invest more money in it, I could have had the film negative-cut and had a composite print struck, but it did not seem worth the money or effort at that time.

  17. Patti Griner

    I not only have a VCR, it is hooked up to my TV, right along with my DVD player, and I still use it. I have about 500 VHS tapes, and still watch them!

  18. Peter

    A few years ago, a friend of mine transferred to DVD a few movies I have on VHS that were never released on DVD. I moved right before that and didn’t bother hooking my VCR up in my new apartment. Since I can watch these on DVD now, there is no real need, but I still have my VCR, which I bought in 1995, in a box in the closet. Many, many good times alone and with friends, girlfriends, etc. spent watching movies on that VCR over the years. I got my first DVD player in 2002 which might be later than many people here.

  19. Lone_gunmen

    I haven’t watched one in years and haven’t owned one since living with my parents. I have a few MiniDV tapes laying around though, mostly of crappy short films I shot during my high school wannabe filmmaker years =D

  20. Mike H

    Yep! Still have a very good VCR in the closet I used for video editing back in the day. It is right next to the DVD recorder I bought to transfer my old VHS tapes to DVD when that technology first came out. And next to that is my old full size VHS camcorder! Man I feel old. Still have some tapes left to transfer but I think the old VHS equipment has too much nostalgia for me to get rid of it. I feel like my dad who still has his 8mm camera and projector. My how time flies!

  21. There’s an option missing. I’ve still got my VCR in a closet, but it doesn’t work anymore. So, I’ve already gotten rid of it mentally, I just haven’t actually thrown it away yet.

  22. Thayne S.

    I would really be interested in seeing a poll on who still has a Laser Disc player!! I still use my VCR on occasion. I still have over 100 tapes that I can’t find DVD’s or Blu-Rays to replace them.

    • Yemi E

      I was thinking the same thing whilst reading through this poll, great idea! Still have my CLD-925. Regarding VCR my teenage brother (and the youngest in the house) still regularly uses the VCR to record off Sky when the HDD is full, strangely he is the only one in the house that practise’s this.

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