Saturday, May 10, 2014

The VHS Advantage.

I rented a movie yesterday.  As I began to watch it I remembered one of the advantages of the VHS video cassette for watching movie rentals.  If there's ads at the beginning you can fast forward through them.  DVDs force you to watch through all the crappy ads.  I sat there last night for what must have been 5 or 6 minutes of trailers for movies I have no interest in, and an ad trying to get me to by a Blu Ray player.  On the other hand you don't need to rewind a DVD.

To most younger readers a VCR is a curiosity at best, something your older relatives might still have in their house, plugged in or not.(I say most because I'm sure there are some young movie buffs who own one to watch movies that will never see the official digital light of day, but are still found on VHS.)  I'm old enough to remember when they were high tech and expensive.  The first ones I saw in the flesh were in grade school, where they were used to show us kids stuff that was taped off TV.  This was early enough that I doubt we were ever shown anything commercially made.  These early machines even had mechanical recording timers on them.  I wonder if some might have been Betamax machines, Sony's home video format which ultimately lost to JVC's VHS format, despite its supposed better quality.

I'm not sure when my family got our first VCR, but it was some time in the mid-late '80s.  But we'd been renting videos for some time before that.  When video rental stores began to appear they rented machines in the early days alongside the actual cassettes.  After all most people initially didn't have a VCR due to the cost.  So when you came home from the video store not only would you be carrying a bag of cassettes, you'd be carrying a big metal case with a heavy VCR in it.  I'm not sure when the practice ended, because of course once we got our own machine we didn't need to bother renting one anymore.

One thing I can't remember is whether the ancestor of the DVD, the LaserDisc, was ever offered for rent locally.  The format was pretty much a flop in North America, so it's quite amusing to see interviews with musicians circa 1980 speculating on what the format might mean for the industry.  A number of them talked about producing visual material for the format, but other than a few concert videos these plans fizzled as the format did.  I do remember seeing a few used discs in Saskatoon in the mid '80s, so a few of the machines did reach the market in this area.

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