Last Call for the VCR

Do you remember what a big deal it was when you got your first VCR?

Do you remember how great it was when you wanted to watch the latest episode of Dallas, even though you didn’t even like Dallas but felt left out if you didn’t see it because everyone was talking about it, but you didn’t want to be home on a Friday night watching television, or wanted to watch Cheers but the hockey game was still on, or if you hadn’t entirely kicked your General Hospital habit after college and wanted to follow what was going on in Port Charles once in a while and you could just pop a tape into the machine and watch it when it was convenient for you and not just convenient for the network broadcasting it?

Or if you were a hotshot, actually programming the VCR to tape when you weren’t even home?

Well, at least it's not Betamax.

Well, at least it’s not Betamax.

It was cutting-edge technology at the time but it’s been years since the VCR was the best way to manage your television-watching. Now the VCR has suffered the final, cruelest cut of all: the last VCR has rolled off the assembly line.

Even though the manufacturer, the Funai Corporation of Japan, reports that it’s still selling 750,000 VCRs a year, it says it’s getting too hard to find parts to make the machines and that its most recent run of the devices will be its last.

And that’s sort of sad.

As he has noted in the past, The Curmudgeon is not generally an early adopter of technology – a smartass 15-year-old told him not too long ago that he’s an analog guy – and he also can hold onto older technologies longer than he really should. If he could get his hands on a working version of the old Palm Pilot he’d gladly resume using one; he still has large stereo floor speakers in his living room at a time when everyone else seems to be listening to music on wireless, paperback-sized speakers; and not a day passes when he doesn’t regret jettisoning his landline phone and going all-cell, all the time.

So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that The Curmudgeon still has a VCR.

And uses it.


“Regularly” as in four or five times a week.

And in fact, he probably uses his VCR now more than he ever has at any time in his life.

You see, The Curmudgeon rides a stationary bike in his bedroom twice a day at least four times a week. In the morning he rides slowly, just to loosen up for the day, and after work he rides vigorously, to work up a little sweat and keep his aging legs in something vaguely resembling decent physical condition. Riding a stationary bike is incredibly boring, though, so to help pass the time he watches television as he pedals. Finding something worthwhile to watch can be a challenge, though – surely you’ve noticed that having more channels does little to improve your chances of finding anything you’d actually like to watch – so when one day he found himself pedaling and watching a movie he was enjoying, he popped a tape into the VCR when he was done pedaling so he could watch the rest of it while pedaling over the next few days.

Thus an idea was born.

For years The Curmudgeon had been attending library used book sales, and in addition to used books the libraries also sell used VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs, cassettes, and even records. He’s been amassing movies on VHS for years and storing them under his bed in plastic storage boxes, never quite accepting that it’s been years since he’d given up his old practice of settling down at midnight on Friday nights to watch a movie to start his weekend. (A sad commentary on both his social life and his need to turn in much earlier than he did when he was younger.)

Now he’s plowing through that collection at a rate of about a movie a week – and replenishing his stock at additional library sales (brown shopping bags, as many books and movies and anything else you can stuff into them for five dollars a bag).

For The Curmudgeon, his VCR has never been more valuable – and he has no intention of retiring it just because no one’s manufacturing new ones anymore. He figures people will be cleaning old VHS tapes out of their closets for years to come (and it’s easy to record over even a commercial movie video VHS tape, so tape supply won’t be a problem) and the guys who’ve repaired VCRs for years won’t suddenly forget how – they’re still repairing record players, after all – so he intends to continue using his VCR until either he can’t find any more movies on VHS or the VCR breaks and can’t be repaired.

And if it’s the latter, he already has a solution: you see, he actually has two VCRs.

And if the opportunity arises he would consider picking up another if he stumbles upon one. After all, he lives in a part of the world where there are flea markets aplenty. A few weeks ago he needed to find a walker – two of them, actually – for a few people in his life who were suddenly having trouble getting around. He went to one of those flea markets and it took him less than ten minutes to find two walkers for five dollars apiece – one of them brand new, with little flecks of styrofoam still clinging to the legs, and the other in almost perfect condition.

So how hard could it be to find a VCR or two?

And no matter how much you beg and plead, he’s not sharing one with you. Get your own.

While you still can.

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  • Peaches Shimmerdeeo  On August 9, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I still have one. Rarely used. Gave my tapes away to a writer friend awhile back. But there are special family videos. And some other things received as gifts. Worth keeping it for those.

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