It’s hard to believe the humble VHS cassette and VCR are still being used to watch movies, not just as fodder for fan tributes. One of the defining mediums of the 1980s, the VHS and its magnetic tape now mostly turn up in yard sales, and VCRs are the domain of catalogues for the elderly. But it turns out the VCR’s last day wasn’t back when the DVD was introduced, but sometime next week, as the last manufacturer of VCRs gets out of the market.
Funai, the last holdout, was one of the original VHS VCR manufacturers. Back in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that VCRs could be sold in America, despite the potential for copyright infringement, thus creating the entire home video industry almost overnight. Movie studios quickly discovered that cheap plastic tapes with their movies on them were a huge market, and that eventually shifted the industry to the home video model.
Now, of course, we have streaming video, Blu-Ray and a host of other technologies, but VHS was still popular. In fact the last VHS tapes shipped out in 2008, and Funai would probably have kept building them except for two factors. One, sales have hit an all-time low of 750,000 units, and two, people simply aren’t making the parts for VHS machines anymore. So they’re impossible to fix.
It seems unlikely the VCR is gone for good, however. In an era of desktop manufacturing and hipsters, there’s sure to be a revival. But for now, at least, “be kind, rewind” is a thing of the past.