Funai electric, a Japanese company that makes consumer electronics such as LCD TVs, DVD/BD related products, printer related products and antennas apparently was the last surviving manufacturer of the VCR. The company announced recently that it would stop the production of the beloved system as it is not seen as a profitable venture anymore. With this decision, the VCR enters the annals of history as legacy equipment, equipment the proud owners of which would not be able to fix if it were to breakdown as is the case with most legacy equipment.
The VCR format was introduced in 1972, developed by Philips. The Video Cassette Recorder that ceased production recently was not supportive of the VCR format but rather the VHS or the Video Home System. The major breakthrough in achieving popularity among the masses however was gained by the VHS or developed by JVC, the format which the VCR supported. The alternate format that attempted to gain a footing besides the VCR and VHS was Sony’s Betamax. The Betamax tapes featured better quality as compared to VHS but due to a difference in price with the Betamax being on the higher side, it could not stop the VHS from dominating 60% of the market of North America.
Most of today’s children, that grew up with tablets in their hands would have no idea and would barely be able to understand the freedom and liberty that the VCR gave to the consumers of media in the 70s. It was a golden decade, very similar to the freedom that the internet provides in these days and times, such so, that it gave Hollywood and large cable companies a big scare, as consumers could now watch re-runs of their favorite TV shows and share movies with their friends and family that they would watch on TV all without paying a hefty fee. This technology was the predecessor to the “download” concept with the consumer being able to “download” content right onto the videotape. Also the ability to constantly re-write the information would prove to be a huge convenience as consumers did not have to invest in a new cassette each time unless they did not want new content on the tape.
The pre-eminent format, the VHS, emerged as a winner in the video tape war of the 70s primarily due to its cheaper price and far longer recording time. Also, the recorders and cassettes were far widely available than Sony’s higher quality Betamax. Even though Sony assumed its higher quality format would be seen as a sort of novelty item it failed to keep its ground mainly due to the introduction of a third competing format brought into the market by the first prime-mover whose format had previously failed – Philips. Philips started to distribute its Video 2000 format in 1979 along with related products for a period of 10 years. The Video 2000 format was superior to both the VHS and Betamax formats but still failed to control a significant portion of the market mainly due to a very late time to market.
The VCR was a pioneering technology to the idea of being able to download media and being able to share it freely. As the world bids adieu to this technology, it can be said that besides being the most successful recording medium in the history of humanity and providing some of the earliest forms of home entertainment, it was also an example of technology aiding people in liberation from corporate control and encouraging immense innovation and competition. The VCR is still remembered to this day and deserves its own standing in the hall of fame outgunning the laser disc player and the VCD and DVD player in terms of lifetime, popularity and financial success.