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Time to Digitize Those VHS Tapes. The VCR Is Officially No More

  • Japan’s Funai Electric finally pulls the plug after 30 years
  • Sony stopped selling rival Betamax video casettes in March

If your wedding was recorded on a VHS tape and is collecting dust in the attic, time to get it digitized and uploaded to the cloud. The last maker of video cassette recorders will cease production at the end of this month.

Japan’s Funai Electric Co. churned out VCRs that played the tapes for more than 30 years, selling the machines in North America and China under the Sanyo brand. But last year, it sold only 750,000, according to Japan’s Nikkei, and faced increasing difficulty obtaining parts.

Popularized in the 1970s, VCRs dominated home entertainment until DVDs became the technology of choice in the early 2000s, followed by Blu-Ray and ultimately streaming video. Perhaps more surprising than Funai Electric’s decision to stop making the machines was the fact that they were still being produced at all. Sony Corp. stopped manufacturing Betamax video recorders in 2002 and their tapes, rivals to VHS, earlier this year. Panasonic Corp. halted production of its VCRs in 2012.

“I’d have thought by about 10 years ago the VCR market was dead,” said Forrester Research analyst Jim Nail. “The minute Blockbuster closed, where were you going to get these things? It’s mind-boggling.”

Nail said old habits contributed to the device’s longevity. From family events, to classic Seinfeld episodes, and an older generation that couldn’t get behind new technology, it was a slow demise. Unlike vinyl records, which are enjoying something of a renaissance, VCRs won’t likely have a similar resurgence due to the low quality of the tapes.

But that doesn’t mean some people weren’t sad to see them go. Many people remembered the devices fondly.  

“This hurts my childhood way more than any new Ghostbusters movie,” Marty Beckerman said in a post on Twitter.

Just as the DVD player killed the VCR, streaming will inevitably bring about the demise of the DVD player. “The day Netflix opened its streaming service, the countdown was on,” Nail said. That will probably take several years. But if history repeats, someone somewhere will keep making DVD players long after much of the world has moved on.

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