Gone with the (Re)Wind
Birth of the Local Video Store
Remember the good old days when you’d call in at your local video rental store on a Friday night on the way home from work with the intention of watching the latest blockbuster movie. You’d promised yourself a relaxing night in, with a glass (or two) of chilled Chardonnay in front of the 27 inch (the largest screen available) 4:3 colour telly. Or perhaps you were out at the darts club the same night when that ‘mustn’t miss’ programme was being broadcast on BBC television, no ‘Catch Up’, no ‘iPlayer’, no ‘On Demand’ in those days – miss it and you’d missed it for good unless they repeated it because the Wimbledon tennis had been rained off yet again.
Oh, those were the days – long before the internet and DVD’s; Sony had just released the ‘Walkman’ for playing music audio cassettes on the move (no iTunes or MP3 players) and Smartphones weren’t smart at all and were the size and weight of a house brick. Flares had been replaced by Bell Bottoms or Loons which had in turn been replaced by Bleachers (I’m talking a load of trousers here, or pants as our American cousins call it) and John McEnroe, aged 18, just “couldn’t be serious”!
In the UK we had only 3 TV channels, no cable and no satellite channels. Netflix would have been a term associated with playing basketball, Brodie and Doyle were The Professionals, long hair was in, The Sex Pistols had just about been banned from every TV and Radio station and Brotherhood of Man had just won the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK with ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’.
Breakthrough VHS Technology
It was September 9, 1976 and a breakthrough was just about to become the ‘must have’ for every household in the country, or world, come to that. It was to change the viewing habits of millions and make movies available at home for the first time ever, and not only that but it would allow people to record broadcast TV and watch the playback at their own convenience.
The Japan Victor Company (JVC) launched the first domestic video cassette recorder (VCR) and called it the Video Home System (VHS).
Sales of VCR’s rocketed and was heralded as a technological marvel of the 20th Century. Suddenly every owner could decide what and when to watch their favourite TV programmes and it allowed access to the latest feature films with an ever expanding back catalogue of films, you may have missed at the local Cinema. Home entertainment was the catchphrase and life was never to be the same again. Home grown libraries of popular films and TV shows were stored on shelves full of black plastic cassettes the size of paperback books.
Pirate copies of films were sold at local markets and exchanged at work, pornography was readily available to view in the privacy of your own home instead of a sleazy backstreet cinema and weddings were lovingly filmed by amateur videographers producing 3 hours of highlights on a single tape to be endured by the unlucky family who missed the live event.
The end of an era has finally arrived with the Japanese company, Funai, announcing that, as of this July, it would cease to produce the VHS recorder due in part to the difficulties in acquiring the necessary components and mainly due to the non-existent market for the technology which has been superseded by DVD, Blu-ray and, latterly, on-line Cloud storage.
The humble VHS tape has been wound back for the very last time as tape sees it’s demise in favour of digits and pixels and Cloud sharing.
So I’ll raise my glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and toast the invention that changed all of our lives forever – ‘Rest In Peace’ the humble VHS and thank you for all the good times you showed us.