Don’t throw out those videotapes yet

There were three technological innovations that completely changed the way I lived growing up in the 1980s.

The microwave meant being able to cook meals without much, if any, cooking ability, or heat up leftovers with minimal effort.

We didn’t have cable, so our satellite dish — a giant one on a pole attached to the back of our house — let us watch channels other than the three or four on our TV, although they were mostly sports channels because the hill behind our house blocked most of the satellites. (Not like I was complaining.)

And then there was the VCR.

I’m almost certain that the first movie we rented was “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Our go-to place was a little video store off a side street in Altamont, New York, which was on my mother’s way home from work. Movies were only a few dollars, and you could rent more than one at a time, so if my parents were more interested in one kind of movie and my brother and I liked something else, we could just get both.

A friend of my father’s had HBO, so he’d record all the big Mike Tyson fights, and if we thought there was a chance I might play, my dad would sometimes bring his camera to my basketball games. The video of my “highlights” — I was an uncommonly terrible high school basketball player — is probably still buried somewhere at my parents’ house.

Or we’d just record TV shows that we would have missed otherwise. To make sure we didn’t miss anything, we’d set the timer for a couple minutes before and a couple minutes after.

When I was in college, before any of us owned a video game system, we’d go to the local Blockbuster Video near Utica to rent a Sega Genesis and its NHL game, and then we’d play every free moment until we had to return it a few days later.

As for the videotapes, they eventually gave way to DVDs, DVRs and streaming. Blockbuster is down to one store, and yes, we did stop when we were in Bend, Oregon. It wasn’t open yet, but you can’t go to Bend and not at least see the Blockbuster.


Our videotapes are in plastic tubs in our basement, and even if I wanted to watch one, I’m not sure where I’d find a VCR.

There’s a DVD player in our entertainment center, but I don’t remember the last time we used it, and the door to the cabinet with the DVDs is broken, so taking them out is a hassle.

My parents and my brother will still watch and record shows on a DVR, but I’ve never used one. Most of what we watch is streaming, so if we don’t see it right away, we’ll get to it.

Once upon a very long time ago, if I had known Maggie Rogers was going to be on “Austin City Limits” during the Yankee game, I would have either set the VCR to record it or — since I didn’t know until the middle of the game — hope one of the local PBS stations would repeat it.

Instead, we’ll just look for it with our PBS Passport, or I’ll go to the link, put it on my iPad and beam it to my Apple TV.


But maybe, just maybe, all those videocassettes have a future as something other than relics of days gone by.

Think I’m nuts? Maybe I am, but I have one word for you …

… vinyl.

I find the resurgent interest in vinyl odd, but I am not “hip.” I am not a “tastemaker.” I am not “cool.” And maybe, just maybe, the cool people of the world will decide they want to put their records back in their sleeves for the moment and grab a movie.

And when they do, even though I’m sure “When Harry Met Sally …,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and the entire Bond collection have already been claimed in the streaming wars, they’ll consider videotape to be the superior experience, as long as they are kind and rewind. (It’s not, but whatever … neither is listening to records.)

And then, as my generation enters its 50s, we will be hip … tastemakers … cool.

I just need to find a VCR first.

And to remember how to hook it up.

Anybody have one I can borrow?

Preferably with directions.

9 thoughts on “Don’t throw out those videotapes yet

  1. Pingback: The week gone by — Jan. 5 – A Silly Place

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