A Trip Down VHS Lane

 
Does anyone remember their first VCR? I do. We rented it from Granada and it was a right clunk-click-every-trip job: no remote control, no on-screen programming, no longplay. It was a top loader too; incredibly handy for seeing how much tape was left on the videocassette (I often went down to the wire, trying to squeeze just one more episode of Cheers onto an E-180). I was devastated when top loaders were replaced by front loaders – especially the day when my luck (and the tape) finally ran out (for the record, a Cheers episode entitled Showdown, part 1). I even remember the very first thing taped: it was a Level 42 song called The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) and it was from Channel 4’s classic pop show, The Tube. Memories.
 
Fast forward to today and it’s all about space. That’s the issue. Space for a video collection started 24 years ago. Family members keep threatening to call the House Doctor’s Ann Maurice or the BBC’s Life Laundry show. I protest vehemently at the latter. I do not have unresolved emotional issues (often found to be at the heart of the worst examples of clutter on that programme); I just do not have enough space. In an ideal world, I’d win the lottery and buy a house big enough to devote an entire floor to home entertainment: a state of the art DVD Player, a Plasma Television, surround sound speakers etc. Unfortunately, reality bites. I have to finally confront the fact that I have hundreds of big, bulky videocassettes taking up valuable room.
 
Operation Tape Management will commence as follows: I will dispose of as many bought VHS tapes as possible (charity shops, here I come) with the exception of my two sets of original widescreen theatrical versions of Star Wars, my Arsenal collection, my Godfather boxset, my Tom and Jerry collection (the DVDs are cut to shreds due to political correctness. All the blackface/ethnic stereotyping/Mammy Two Shoes elements are missing and soon, the characters won’t be smoking either) and finally, any VHS tapes that are either not available on DVD or are available on DVD, but not in their original form (try getting National Lampoon’s Animal House on DVD with all the music featured in the theatrical release. No Wonderful World by Sam Cooke, no Theme From A Summer Place etc). 
 
Much harder, and easily the bulk of the problem, are the cassettes with stuff taped off the telly. "Throw them out!" That’s my mum’s solution. Not awfully practical in these environmentally aware days. It puts me in mind of a line from the classic Talking Heads song Once In A Lifetime: "And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" Answer: by not taping over anything I cherished and by acquiring American NTSC format tapes of US shows.
 
One set that will not be going is my Remington Steele collection. If only I’d taped Pierce Brosnan’s early US hit off Bravo when they showed it in full back in 1997! Instead I have NTSC tapes that I cannot get rid of, or easily transfer to DVD, because they’re from the original NBC run in America. And again, although the show is now available on DVD, some of the original music used isn’t. Staying at Chez Coops for the exact same reason as Remington Steele is Beverly Hills 90210 (taped from Murdoch’s Fox channel in the US). I’ve read waaaaaaaaaayyy too many negative Amazon customer reviews from fans lamenting the loss of key music on the DVDs. I hope to transfer some of my PAL collection to DVD: any tapes containing Cheers, Moonlighting, Just Good Friends, Arsenal stuff and fab music will be spared. I will have to go through every single cassette that I own – a daunting task. I really need that lottery win.
 
Today I am mostly lovin’ – The Sopranos. Easily the best thing on TV at the moment.
 
Today I am mostly hatin’ – My brain. It didn’t immediately pick up on the fact that a picture in my Big Brother wrap party was incorrectly captioned. Luckily, I spotted the mistake 5 mins after publishing. Thank you to all the MSN users who wrote in to point this out. And yes, I did watch the show, I assure you.
 
MSN Editor Coops
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19 Responses to A Trip Down VHS Lane

  1. Stephen says:

    There speaks someone after my own heart! Is this something that only men seems to do? I wonder…. I too have a vast collection of both pre-recorded and home-recorded VHS tapes, somewhere in the several 100\’s. Mine are mainly films and, typically, were recorded mainly at half-speed to cram as many on as possible! Inevitably, i have managed to replace a  number of them on DVD ands i bought a DVD Recorder/VCR combi a couple of years ago, with the express intention of copying them all to DVD. Yes, i did about 10 and then gave up…. but i will start again one day!
    It\’s funny how US and UK broadcasts/formats seem to differ; your point about Animal House is a classic – how COULD they imagine for 1 minute that we would all be thrilled by the "new" songs? I mean, how could you not have "Lets Dance" in the foodfight scene? Or not have any of the other great classics? It\’s sacrilege!
    All i can say is i\’m glad i didnt get rid of all my vinyl when CDs came in….
     
    Steve

  2. Coops - says:

     Hello Steve. A kindred spirit! Re: your line about this being "something that only men do". I\’m assuming you haven\’t seen my picture? I wouldn\’t want my mum to think I\’ve undergone a sex change without telling her. I\’m female and I\’ve got the lipstick to prove it. The transfer to DVD isn\’t all good news – this is an important point to get across. Sometimes original music is lost on the DVD (but often, still available on the VHS version). I never buy films and TV DVDs until I\’ve read loads of reviews on Amazon detailing the disc in question. And don\’t get me started on my vinyl cos I\’ve got the same problem there too! Question: what\’s a CD? 🙂

  3. Alan says:

     I too have had the VHS problem. At least 12 years ago myself and a friend tried to count mine and lost count somewhere in the mid 3000s! I don\’t have so much of a problem about the music changes – except for Dr Who where I keep different version of episodes. One story I have 4 different versions of certain episodes. Broadcast, unedited, extended release version and one episodes dubbed, badly, in German. I do not speak the language!
    I\’m slowly culling the entire collection and not replacing the majority of it. I only have 24 hours in the day!
    What I do object to is the censorship. Tom and Jerry seemingly being the worst hit. When things are released on DVD I expect it to be as complete a version as possible. After all I\’m the one shelling out my cash for it. Yes they\’re not PC, in today\’s climate they were made for a different time with different attitudes. The Looney Tunes DVDs have the right idea, they state that \’this collection is aimed at the adult collector\’. In the third release they used Whoopie Goldberg to do an introduction explaining all the PC stuff. But the shorts are all uncut.
    All this retrofit censorship I think is wrong. As way of example. I have no objection to there being new Noddy books being written but do not go and re-write what Enid Blyghton wrote. That was a product of it\’s time. If I want to buy the original, I should be free to do so and not what some one says I should read. That way really does lead to 1984.
     
    Alan Jeffries

  4. Keith says:

    I remember  the very first vhs from waaaay back, yes it was toplaoder, it had a "remote control" ie, the controls were attached by a long wire to the machine. perfect for tripping over in the dark when changing tapes! the very first film was fantastic voyage.
    just recently i threw all my old tapes out, the neighbours had a field day. I wish tv companies would put all their old shows out on dvd in their original format- untouched & uncensored .

  5. Unknown says:

    MY FIRST MEMORY OF VCR\’S WAS WHEN MY PARENT DISCOVERED YOU COULD HAVE THEM ON 1 WEEK FREE TRIAL,THEY WENT THROUGH ALL THE SHOPS THAT RENTED THEM BEFORE ACTUALLY BUYING ONE(6 WEEKS I THINK).
    THE FIRST MOVIE I WATCHED WAS AMERICA WAREWOLF IN LONDON,BEING ONLY 8 IT SCARED ME TO DEATH,I STILL CANT WATCH IT TO THIS DAY!!!WE ALSO HAD GREASE 

  6. Unknown says:

    CONTINUE FROM LAST COMMENT!!!! AS I WAS SAYING WE ALSO HAD GREASE WICH I WATCHED CONSTANTLY AND LEARNT ALL THE WORDS TOO,I STILL REMEMBER THEM!
    THE MOST CLASSIC MOVIE EVER THOUGH IS \’NATIONAL LAMPOON ANIMAL MAD HOUSE\’,I LENT OUT MY VIDIO CASSETTE RECORDING OF IT AND NEVER GOT IT BACK,I AM STILL LOOKING FOR THE ORIGINAL ON DVD,ANY CLUES TO WHERE I CAN GET IT?????

  7. Coops - says:

    Hello no name – nice to hear from you. Unfortunately, you will not be able to secure an original version of National Lampoon\’s Animal House on DVD. Search ebay or Amazon for the VHS version instead…An American Werewolf In London was one of the first films we watched on our VCR too! Memories.

  8. Christopher D. says:

    I, like many here have a cupboard full of videos with stuff off the tv.  After I filled a tape, I would catalogue it with the timings of each episode,  I must have well over a hundred.  I have lots of 3 stooges shorts from channel 4.  Don\’t think any of them have been seen since on any of the 30 odd channels we have now.  Quite a few series on DVD have little messages on the boxes saying that for copyright reasons, small cuts have taken place.  Hi Di Hi\’s a casualty for one.   Think the first video films I watched were Tess of the Durbevills,  the Missionary and escape From New York.  I remember when Star Wars first came out on video in the early 80\’s.  You could buy it for about £25.  Talking of which, the first video I bought was the Doctor Who adventure \’Revenge of the Cybermen\’.  Think it was the first release from the BBC too.  That and Sky at Westminster Abbey.  The BBC\’s packaging made videos look more like books, than the usual plastic boxes.

  9. Unknown says:

    THANKYOU FOR THAT,I AM GONNA GET MY HUBBY ON THE CASE AND SEARCH EBAY FOR THE VIDEO,ONLY THING IS HAVE TO FIND A VCR MACHINE TO WATCH IT!! 
    I WILL LOOK FORWARD TO GETTING A FEW BEERS IN AND GO BACK IN TIME TO WATCH JAMES BELUSHI START THE BEST FOOD FIGHT EVER RECORDED…THANKS ED X 

  10. Alan says:

    Hiya.  The whole NTSC and degrading media (tapes, DVDs, etc.) thing is a nasty challenge, but one that my job keeps nagging the back of my mind to challenge.  I work in the media, working on on-line video streaming.  Recently, I found an old VHS tape of Absolutely (1980\’s Channel 4 comedy sketch show that went on to launch the careers of Jack Docherty and Morwenna Banks, amongst others) and found myself still howling with laughter (I played the "how many episodes can you squeeze onto a tape" game too — of course, with some programmes, you didn\’t need to keep the end credits, and if you cut out the adverts too, you could get an episode down to about 25 minutes — that\’s 7 on an E180 🙂 ).  I needed to keep these safe.  So, I turned to my professional skill…
     
    It\’s relatively cheap and easy (you can get USB devices like the one I have) to capture audio-video signals and encode them to a hard drive.  And these days, terabytes of storage are relatively inexpensive too.  My dream is to buy 5 terabytes of storage, a decent modern and quiet PC (or even a Mac Mini, which has a lovely small case and wouldn\’t look out of place in the home entertainment set-up), and then rip all the media into digital form.
     
    There in lies the real problem — time.  It just feels so time consuming ripping it all, especially when you end up watching half of what you\’ve got whilst you rip it (Monty Python\’s Flying Circus — US edition on DVD — that\’s a lot of "wasted" hours).
     
    But I think removing physical media from the equation is the only way forward.

  11. Coops - says:

    No name, hope you get this quick piece of advice re: Animal House. Make sure you buy an old VHS version – the newer one might have the music changes. Ask sellers on ebay or Amazon about the music before you confirm your purchase. 

  12. nelson says:

     
    Hong kong fooey was the first thing i recorded on a phillips n1700  

  13. Jason says:

    LOL, I remember the huge and heavy top loaders from Granada and Visionhire, and had one myself – a silver and grey Ferguson with huge piano key buttons which I proudly placed on a purpose built mock stone and black ash fireplace / tv shelf! (Quick – someone call the interior deisgn police!) It replaced my betamax machine which had chewed up all but one ex-rental video shop tape with the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest on it!
    Today I\’m transferring all those worn out VHS casettes (those with the lifetime guarantee, mmm) onto DVD and hoping that technology stays static long enough to avoid moving those old episodes of Fresh Fields and Dynasty onto another format.
     

  14. Coops - says:

    I remember the old \’piano keys\’ VCRs no name. So, you\’re transferring your tapes to DVD? I\’d love to know how that turns out. I know I need to do it, but there are so many tapes! It will take months. I really hope I win the lottery so that I can pay someone else to do it…

  15. kenny says:

    Couldnt agree more about the old fashioned Vcrs,
    i used to have an old Sanyo Top Loading Betamax, it weighed at least 3 Tons but i had loads of Stuff with the Local Tv presenters on, even a very young Fern Britton who used to present  for TSW our local Station.
    Finally had to get rid of it due to space, but like yourself still keeping loads of Vhs Tapes with Films on that you cant get on Dvd yet.
    Also now you can thanx to Charity shops Buy a Film for 50p, if you dont like it give it back !!
    Very good article
    Ken

  16. karen says:

    the first video my parents had was a top loader beta max we were the first house on the street to have one , me and my brother watched ET when my mum and dad were in bed,  lol were were suitably freaked to start with then was so upset at the film we woke mum and dad up crying lol ( i was 7 and my brother was 6).
     
    as for the remote on the cord well i have first hand knowledge as to how effective that was lol i tripped on it smashed into our big mantle peice and broke my arm lol great idea a
     
     
    i spent ages getting my vast video collection sorted no easy task.the hardest flms to replace on DVD was the john wayne westerns (husband a huge fan) i still have a collection of videos that i wont part with (less than 100 now) as they contain special memories and content. it is a shame that after spending so much on origonal videos that the manafactures didnt do a trade in such as a % off the cost of the DVd if you were retuning the video that way  it could have recycled a lot of stuff.
     
     we gave a video and loads of videos films to a local retirment home and the resideces loved them so at theast they were put to good use. 

  17. flora says:

    first video i ever watched way back in \’82 was zombie flesh eaters… nice ! at a friends house with the trip wire remote. my youngest son of 7 has video player because at least the tapes last and have lasted a lot longer than dvd\’s do. Kids and dvd\’s… they get sticky sweets on them, use them as frisbees I could go on, but at least with the good old vhs if the tape breaks you can al least fix it somehow! only thing is tho is that the slot is big enough to put a decent size toy car in there. 

  18. Gary says:

    I must be the granddaddy then as my first VCR was a Philips 1500 back in 1971. Each tape was £45.00 and ran for a max time  of 60 min.. but I am still in the game,  and will be using tape until Blue ray is at a good price, and possibly a bit longer epically if the full coding is put in on the off-air signal limiting the \’Keep\’ time of programs

  19. Coops - says:

    I\’ve really enjoyed reading all the memories of people\’s first VCRs. But 8 MM, I think you\’ve topped us all…1971! Wow. And I\’ve done diddly squat about my collection – I can\’t face it yet.

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