Obama girl on DVD

December 22, 2008

2008: The End of the VCR?

December 22, 2008

News: LA Times has this excellent article discussing the end of manufacturing of the VHS tape. Soon, VHS tapes used on VCRs will suffer the same fate as Polaroid film: obsolescence.

Analysis
: I have a confession to make. I own a VCR and still occasionally use it–the last time to tape Obama’s convention speech, followed by Palin’s convention speech. I also have a DVD player, but it broke after I used it once and I never got around to buying another one. And it may be shocking to some who know me as a techie, I don’t have a DVR. Don’t get me wrong, I think DVRs are cool. But, to be honest, there’s not much on TV I ever find worth time shifting for later viewing. If I miss it, no loss.

But I will miss the VCR, just as I already miss Polaroid cameras and film (I still have my cache in the refrigerator). The VCR gave birth to one of the most important copyright cases of the 20th century, Universal City Studios v. Sony, in which the Supreme Court recognized the Sony safe harbor. Under the Sony safe harbor, tech developers are protected from copyright lawsuits for developing technologies that are capable of substantial noninfringing uses (even if they have infringing uses, too). Even more than its legal contribution, I find something beautiful and simple in the analog, retro features of the VCR. It was revolutionary in its day, and lasted for over 2 decades. Not true for the DVD, which some say will already become obsolete to BluRay soon.

It’s hard to say why people become attached to some (but not all) “retro” technologies. But they do. Many people still swear by vinyl albums and turntables! (Not me.) Many people think Polaroid photos are works of art. (Me.) Although the VCR is not as glamorous as vinyl or Polaroids, it has a special place in my book.