Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Whatever happened to... VHS?

Recently while clearing out my old VHS cassettes I was struck with a thought - just when did VHS disappear off the radar?

Having brought my first DVD player in the summer of 2001, when they didn't appear to be commonplace - amongst my circle of friends I seemed to be the first to get one. Other than blank cassettes for recording, the only VHSes I've brought since then were the last of the Doctor Who releases (BBC Enterprises decided against simultaneous DVD releases and instead the Who DVD line developed separately). In early 2003 whilst staying with a friend no-one in their flat had a DVD player. Otherwise, apart from a brief comment here last year whilst selling some old tapes, I've not really stopped to look and see what's happened with VHS. Nowadays places like HMV seem to be almost trying to give away VHS boxed sets for only a few pounds (and not always succeeding - the two boxed sets that make up a season of Friends are between them almost as bulky as the DVD boxed set containing all ten seasons) and it's clear that as a prerecorded format VHS is almost extinct (though as a recording format it still has its uses; and I'm sure I'm not the only one using their VCR as an essential adaptor between SCART and coaxial sockets).

So just when did VHS die out as a commercial format? When did all the main stores start marginalising their VHS shelves and then phasing them out completely?

VHS has one or two advantages over DVD though. First off minor tape damage is concentrated and usually affects less of the material than the equivalent on DVD. Secondly one can stop the tape wherever they like and continue playing it in another machine. And thirdly you don't have to go through umpteen copyright notices, adverts against piracy and trailers everytime you play a tape - you can just fast forward a VHS whereas a lot of DVDs won't let you! Does anyone know of a good DVD player that can at least do the last function?

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