The VCR tunes out

It’s the end of a short but sweet era as the manufacturers press stop on the VCR

A VHS videocassette recorder on display in Tokyo.  Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP
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A once-ubiquitous household device is about to go the way of the dodo. The last home video cassette recorder will roll off the production line at the end of this month. The Funai Corporation of Japan, which sold 750,000 VCRs last year and claims to be the world’s only manufacturer, says it can no longer source parts.

The VCR is worthy of a glowing obituary because it was at the forefront of the “time-shifting” revolution that put power into the hands of ordinary people who were once at the mercy of broadcast television and cinema schedules. For the first time, viewers could purchase or rent a video, or record a television programme, and watch it whenever they pleased.

The tapes were bigger than a novel – another endangered species – and could only hold a few hours of content, so it was natural that they would be superseded by something more convenient. So if video killed the radio star, who killed the VCR? Well, it’s a long list starting with the DVD, then USB sticks, SD cards and now the Cloud.