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VHS goes the way of the dodo (finally)

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Anyone out there still holding their breath and hoping that VHS might make a comeback? It’s time to exhale. Japanese electronics maker JVC said this week that it was going to stop making VCRs and that it would stop selling them once inventory ran out. The first company to start making stand-alone VCRs, in 1976, JVC was also the last to stop making them. I guess that selling all those videocassettes you were hoarding isn’t going to get you through the recession now.

What happened to the VCR, which was in 70% of U.S. homes by 1990 and 90% of U.S. homes by 1999? DVD players, for one. Maybe too many people heeded the advice of a 1990 L.A. Times article, which read:

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The smart money is to ignore all of the VCRs and jump into the laser video disc field buying a combination player that plays audio CDs as well as laser video discs.

OK, laser discs posed no match for the VCR, which reigned supreme until the DVD came along. Regardless, any technology that you can’t leave in the sun without melting doesn’t have much of a chance of succeeding in these days of global warming.

VHS lasted six years longer than its early competitor, Betamax. Sony stopped making Betamax videocassette recorders by the end of 2002 (although strangely, it still sold 3,000 of those devices in 2001). Devoted Betaphiles still hoarded and traded the equipment, and some might still be making a few bucks on EBay, where one video player was going for $58.01 and had 10 bids.

Who knows if VCR owners will have the same success selling their machines on EBay down the road. At the time this post was written, the most expensive VCR in the auction site’s vintage electronics category was selling for $35. It had no bids.

-- Alana Semuels

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