May 22, 2020

The VHS (Vibe, April 2005)

Remember your first VCR? Now you could watch Purple Rain on a snow day or study Bruce Lee over breakfast, fast-forwarding to the good parts, slo-mo-ing the better ones, and, crucially, pausing for bathroom breaks.... Although TV stations began using magnetic tape back in 1956, the first home video system wasn't launched until 1975. That model, the LV-1901, supported Sony's ill-fated Betamax format, cost over $2,000 (TV included), and demanded another $20 for each one-hour tape. But in 1984, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against Hollywood's claim that home-movie technology would destroy their livelihood (Napster, anyone?), RCA's alternative Video Home System, or VHS, took off. And while the first VHS VCRs were massive, top-loading slabs straight outta Star Trek, they were convenient and, at $300, much more affordable. Time magazine's December 24, 1984, cover heralded "a magic box that revolutionizes home viewing," and in 1985 alone, more than 11 million units were sold worldwide. Over the next 10-plus years, the VHS tape would reshape the way we saw the world. So long to worrying about "missing a show" or waiting for a movie to air on cable, and say good-bye to virtually every porn theater in the country.... Meet the video rental industry, wedding videos, and the "entertainment" center as furniture. And of course, you can't go straight-to-video - think Streets Is Watching and Baller Blockin, not to mention Girls Gone Wild - if the video doesn't exist. And yet, videocassettes are now the wave of the past. Since the introduction of the digital videodisc in 1997, DVDs have gone on to sell more than twice as much as VHS tapes ever did, and ironically, Hollywood couldn't be happier. Like the turntables before it, the VCR has been shoved aside as newer technology - DVD, DirecTV, and soon, Internet-streamed movies - swoops in. But as long as everything, from your school plays to your favorite celebrity sexcapades, is captured on tape, videocassettes will haunt us for decades to come. - Vibe, April 2005. Most content eventually ends up on YouTube these days, but every one in my generation has a box somewhere with memories captured on VHS, and to us, they are priceless pieces of our past. Yo! MTV Raps, Lyricist Lounge, Rad, Gleaming The Cube, The Box, Rap City; I could go on for days!