I am old enough to remember when VHS looked good. We got our first VHS VCR when I was ten. I thought our over the air recordings looked better than the regular TV. The tuner in our VCR was probably better than the old dials on the TV we had at the time and the lack of resolution of VHS tape actually served as “noise reduction”, smoothing out the static. TV screens were smaller too. Our “big TV” had a 19 inch screen. When you only had 230 lines of resolution, it was better when they were all packed together as tightly as possible.
There was the added bonus of renting movies years before they showed up on television. No commercials and you could watch them whenever you wanted. My mom took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey when they re-released in the theatres. I fell asleep. They showed it on television in the seventies, but it ran until 10:30 at night and I fell asleep. I finally saw 2001 for the first time on VHS tape. I slept in Sunday and watched it all the way through during the afternoon.
My mom had the Jane Fonda Workout on tape. I think it cost about $75 new and for several years it was the only pre-recorded tape we owned. However, when Blockbuster started selling their old rentals, our VHS library grew by leaps and bounds. Often times it was cheaper to buy the movie rather than rent it. I bought special movies on Laserdisc and eventually I got a DVD player. However, there are still a lot of things I have on VHS that I’ve never repurchased on disc of any kind.
You may have noticed VHS paraphernalia is getting harder to find. Best Buy carries honest-to-goodness LP’s nowadays, but no VHS movies. The last major Hollywood release on VHS was A History of Violence almost four years ago. The last North American distributor of VHS pre-recorded cassettes wrapped up operations a few days after last Christmas. There aren’t many VHS recorders anymore. JVC – the creator of VHS – made its last standalone VCR last year. VHS combination players are still in the stores. You can even get a combination VHS / BluRay player, but the days of VHS – indeed all tape – are numbered. I doubt VHS will ever have a core group of “purists” who claim things just look better on thin strips of rust covered ribbon, but I think there will be some people who will have feelings for VHS that match VHS: warm and fuzzy.