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15 things we’ll always miss about using a VCR

Posted by
David Cornish
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"What? But no one has used a VCR since 1998?! Get a grip ShortList."

No, you get a grip. And get your facts straight: Japanese company Funai Electric, the last remaining producer of VCR machines in the world, is set to hit 'Stop' on its production by August - bringing to a close a production line that's been going since 1983. The components are too hard to come by, the market is shrinking and, well, you know, no one buys VHS any more.

With Funai announcing this sad news, we thought we'd take a moment to reminisce on the finest points of this long-defunct format. 

When video rental stores were like physical embodiments of Netflix

When video rental stores were like physical embodiments of Netflix

And somehow you'd still seen all the best films. 

Book covers

Book covers

When your parents wanted to look a bit cultured, so rather than filling shelves with uncoordinated VHS sleeves, they bought a bunch of faux leather cases that made them look like Encyclopedia Britannica.

Having this artwork scattered all over your living room

Having this artwork scattered all over your living room

Look at that design. Just look at it. Glorious. We'd hang that on the wall now. 

This weird Scotch Tape advert

We couldn't sleep for weeks the first time we'd seen this. That undead bird? Haunting...

Taking VHS labelling more seriously than the Dewey Decimal system

Taking VHS labelling more seriously than the Dewey Decimal system

"Robot Wars Ep 2" "Robot Wars Ep 3" "Simpsons" "Match of the Day" "Titanic

A quick glance at a VHS label was like looking at the rings of a tree. That poor tape had seen more service than Nam vet on his fourth tour. 

Dropping videos off in the Quick Drop post box

Dropping videos off in the Quick Drop post box

Why go into the rental shop and wait around like a fool when you could drop the video off in the Quick Drop slot? You'd swagger off down the high street feeling like the future couldn't get any more convenient.

Trying to set up to record a show with this monster

Trying to set up to record a show with this monster

Your mum wanted to watch The Bill, but Die Hard was about to start on BBC 2 in five minutes and you needed to set up to record it. This process carried the same level of intensity, stress and shouting as the average Crystal Maze challenge, as you had to find a blank tape, shout to your sister to find out if you could record over her episode of Clarissa Explains It All, rewind it, remember how to tune the VHS to a different channel to the TV, turn it off and then hope it would turn itself back on in 30 seconds to start recording. There were so many tears. 

Buying one of these 'speed' rewinders shaped like a car

Rewind function on your VCR too slow? One of these bad boys could rewind your tape in seconds. Like, 15 seconds. It saved minutes you'd otherwise waste sitting cross legged in front of the TV listening to that VHS whirr. Minutes. 

Having a wired remote control

Having a wired remote control

Way, way back in the day, having a remote on a wire was a serious threat to your health - you were never going to leave the sofa ever, ever again.

Adjusting the tracking like it was brain surgery

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Adjusting the tracking like it was brain surgery

Be honest, you didn't really know what you were doing when you were adjusting the tracking. It was like some weird cultish VHS ceremony, approaching the VCR on bended knee to twiddle some dials in a magical procedure that might make the annoying lines on the picture disappear if you were deemed worthy. 

Buying the widescreen edition of your favourite movie

Buying the widescreen edition of your favourite movie

Sure, you already had The Last of the Mohicans - but with the widescreen edition you could see all the people on the screen at the same time! What a time it was. 

Failing to close one of these

Failing to close one of these

Despite its simple design, those plastic teeth somehow never lined up as perfectly as they should do...

Blockbuster guilt

Blockbuster guilt

The realisation you'd rented Waterworld out four months ago and hadn't taken it back. The bill for that was almost equal to the cost of making the bloody film. 

The wonders of VideoPlus+

The wonders of VideoPlus+

Right, this was a genuine breakthrough moment in the history of VCRs: any machine with VideoPlus+ would allow you to punch in a unique code associated with the TV show you'd find in the Radio Times, automatically setting up to record the show. No longer did you have to faff about putting in start and end times and channel codes. We wept at its brilliance. 

Buying a combo player

Buying a combo player

There came a point when your last VCR was on its last legs and the DVD player didn't quite fit in the same TV cabinet. The answer was this incredible hybrid combo beast. How did it fit both forms of technology in such a small package? We didn't know, but we felt like Bill Gates owning one. 

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Author

David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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