Rewinding the nostalgia on National VCR Day

It changed the way millions of people watched television, bought movies and held onto memories. Happy National VCR Day!

Few things bring on that nostalgic feeling more than dusting off a VHS tape and throwing it into the videocassette recorder.

For decades, the VCR was the way to watch broadcast television. The ability to tape a show, and watch it at the convenience of everyone in the household, revolutionized how millions watched television.

It was not only a new form of convenience for everyone watching at once, but allowed for an at-home instant replay. Before the VCR, how many lines, puns and sounds were missed over the years because you stepped away from the TV? Rewinding meant always being able to go back for another look, listen or laugh.

Once VHS format became commercial in the '70s, homes exploded with several movies to throw into the VCR. Millions of households had multiple VHS tapes, and usually, a (rather big) place to store them as they added up.

The VHS and VCR combo dominated the '80s and '90s and went out with a bang, rivaling the rise of DVDs in the early 2000s.

A 2016 article from The Washington Post states 66 percent of households owned VCRs in 1990, but "peaked at about 90 percent of households in 2005."

Though the VCR gave viewers new features such as rewinding, pausing and even taping over a less-enticing show for a personal favorite, there were some unwritten rules to follow. There were also some frustrations that came with operating the VCR.

While we’ll always be grateful for the VCR, here’s a short list of the not-so-great aspects that came with owning one. Though it may bring back frustrating memories, it’ll certainly bring back the nostalgia this National VCR Day.

1. Keep the tape in the right case


When bingeing favorite movies or TV shows via VHS tape, the viewer had to constantly take a tape out, and put a new one into the VCR. More times than not, the tape found its way back to the correct case, but we all know that one person who would mix the tapes up every time. Though it could be frustrating to open the case of a film and not see the correct tape, it was more frustrating when the realization happened after the opening credits play.

2. Be sure to label correctly


Keeping home videos was a great way to hold onto memories. Whether it was recording the early stages of your kids or seeing the crazy outfit somebody was wearing 20 years ago, throwing a family home video into the VCR generally brought back all the feels. But be careful to label that tape correctly first, otherwise those cherished memories could get lost in the shuffle of tapes!

3. ''Be Kind Rewind''


Blockbuster was a VHS rental giant and "be kind rewind" was an amazing slogan that is, believe it or not, on T-shirts available for sale today. Of course, when renting a VHS tape from the former movie and TV rental powerhouse, the renter had to rewind the tape back to the beginning in their own VCR to avoid a fee. Fees aside, rewinding a tape was a courtesy to the next viewer, though it didn’t always happen.

4. The VCR chewed my tape!


It could happen when fast forwarding and pausing too frequently or when rewinding before taking the tape out of the VCR (part of the reason some didn't rewind?). But that crunching sound of the machine tearing up the tape inside the cassette is all too familiar. Almost immediately the viewer would know what was happening, and it was a race to eject the tape before too much damage was done!

5. Getting taped over


Of all the sometimes fussy and tedious steps to watching a tape with a VCR, arguably the most frustrating and deflating of them all would be when a favorite show, movie or long-lasting memory got taped over. Often times it was a family member that did the deed. Perhaps the tape wasn’t labeled or it was an honest mistake..... or they disregarded the label and taped over without a care in the world.

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Snickers 23 months ago
Heck I still use my old VHS machine only problem is finding VHS tapes. And does anyone out there remember laser disks? They were like a DVD but were about the size of a LP album.
327053 24 months ago
I remember my first experience with VHS. Back in the 80s my dad rented one from a video store named Movie Madness. He also rented Back to the Future. We saw it all together as a family. I miss the 80s ☹️
Deleted 24 months ago
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Michael 24 months ago
You can delete your message and redo it, instead of cluttering up the space with your constant correction posts.
PortelaJ 24 months ago
My first was a JVC. absolutely loved it. of course it’s long gone but still have plenty of tapes. Aahh Technology.
WordsmithWorks 24 months ago
VCR? My DVD player just fizzled out. Now I have orphan DVDs, video cassettes, audio cassettes, CDs and camcorder cassettes.
ncadams27 WordsmithWorks 24 months ago
What about the 8 mm home movies? I have several reels of them from my Dad’s home movie camera.
Michael ncadams27 24 months ago
My sister digitized ours. We had a camera, a projector and screen, and oddly, a unit for editing with a small screen. But after about five years, it never got used. So a very small number of those small reels
zman47240 24 months ago
Growing up our family had a vcr and a Sony Betamax player.
Michael zman47240 24 months ago
So you were a diverse family.
ncadams27 24 months ago
Regarding #5, if you remove that plastic tab, you can prevent a show from being taped over.
Runeshaper 24 months ago
I grew up with VHS tapes. Good memories (-:

My dad still has a VCR/DVD player.
Michael 24 months ago
I never experienced video rental. My friend got a VCR in November 1980, with a wired remote. So I was aware of the price of prerecorded videos at the beginning. The studios acted like nothing had changed from selling film prints. So video stores started not just because people didn't want to keep films, but the high cost.

But I never had a VCR until 2004. I got a DVD player in late 2093, and started noticing VHS tapes being cleared out. So I spent $20 on a VCR complete in box with remote and manual, from a garage sale. So I coukd buy up all those VHS tapes being sold off, mostly a dollar or less. Slowly DVDs became cheap on the used market, so I coukd replace tge VHS tapes. Since I spent fifty cents or a dollar,it didn't matter to spend a few more dolkars for the same movie on DVD.
texasluva 24 months ago
I rented many of these from the now defunct Block Buster. Wondering how many of you still have your BB card in wallet or purse? Also remember when I had that Akai X-360D Reel to Reel Tape Recorder I wish I still had.
Michael texasluva 24 months ago
That would have fit in the post about technology that's "disappeared".

About 15 years ago, I was at a garage sale and for five dollars there was an 8track recording deck. Those were never popular, so it was a novelty. But I decided I didn't want more clutter. Next to it was a decent reel to reel, not the cheap kind from language labs. Onky ten dollars. I thought of how much I would have liked one in the seventies. And thought about what I could use it for now. And I decided there wasn't any use, digutal recording alk the way.
Johnnyfever1 24 months ago
I still have my Sony hifi 4head VCR and the original boxset of the original Star Wars films Unedited without all the added CGI crap and yes Han Shot first in the original Star Wars! I love my VHS & VCR Will never part with them. Especially since Disney now edits all its movies today!
MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
I think it was either Keith Richard’s wife or one of Ronnie Woods’ wives who said their husband recorded over their wedding.

We still have a bricks and mortar video store called Black Dog Videos. They just recently decided to call it quits. Never went there, but kind of wish I did. Apparently besides the usual, they had old movies, silent movies and foreign films not available on-line.

Michael MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
The taping over has been a tv show theme a few times. I can't remember an example, but probably one of thise shows with the slob husband and the good looking wife. And yes, it's wedding footage
MrsPhilHarris Michael 24 months ago
King Of Queens?
Michael MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
I don't know. But that sort of show. Maybe "According to Jim".
MrsPhilHarris Michael 24 months ago
I never watched that show.
KawiVulc 24 months ago

Saw this one at sale preview for an online auction today... first try at posting a pic, hopefully it shows up. Earliest one I've seen in a long long time!
Catman KawiVulc 24 months ago
My first VCR cost over 400 bucks, and that was overseas in the BX, so stateside it would have been a lot more. And that was probably 1979 or '80, when 400 bucks was real money.
KJExpress Catman 24 months ago
My first VCR was one my dad, my brother and I bought for $399.99. My mother thought we were nuts.
Michael 24 months ago
A friend used audio cassettes to record the sound from tv shows. He once recorded a rerun of The Prisoner, and it was the one where Number Six escapes from the island, so most of the time, no dialogue. A waste.

Shortly before Apollo 11, there were articles about photographing the screen of your tv set. You could always do that, but it was a big event that many might like to preserve.

So these are how tv memories were kept.

You could also be among the relative few that had video recorders that used reel to reel tape. No cassettes and expensive so uncommon. But they existed I guess from the early seventies.
Catman 24 months ago
When we got our first dvd player, after a disc was over I'd tell my kids "hey, go rewind that before you take it out of the machine."
justjeff 24 months ago
In general, to have prevented "tape over" on audio or video cassettes, it was necessary to break those little tabs as shown on #5. If you later on wanted to re-use the cassette, you placed tape over the puched-out tab...
justjeff 24 months ago
I find it interesting that the image for a spaghetti ball of tape is either 1/4 inch reel-to-reel or 1/8 inch cassette **audio** tape on a VCR story... Oh, well... Why do things right when you can do things easy?

I miss VCRs as much as:

Big, heavy, tube operated TV sets
5-1/4 inch floppy discs
Leaky cartridge fountain pens
Slide rules
Leisure suits
Political acrimony
Being broke
AM radio static
Old records that skip

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justjeff MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
The biggest drawback to *any* magnetic tape media is that with age, the oxide particles can shed off, rendering the tape's playback surface damaged or useless. This is why record labels use a process of "baking" a vintage audio tape to re-bond the iron oxide particles to the plastic substrate.

With VCR or cassette tapes, they are also subject to substrate stress from constant fast-forwarding or rewinding. In recording studios, tapes are usually stored "tails out" - meaning they are played forward on the reel-to-reel unit until the tape runs out in order to keep the tape tightly and uniformly packed. However, some studios do opt to simply rewind the tape after use.

Another issue that shows up (due to either tape defects or misuse) are signal dropouts or tape-over. They already mentioned tape-over in the article, but dropouts can be caused by dirty recording heads (few people *ever* cleaned their home audio or video unit heads with denatured alcohol), a defectively manufactured tape or brief exposure to an electromagnetic source.

I'm glad you still enjoy your VCR and tapes - but you couldn't give me them for free... That would be [for me] like trading in my CD collection for some old, worn 78 rpm records...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 24 months ago
I’ve actually cleaned the heads of the VCR. Found a kit in my parents basement. Funny you mention CDs because years ago I tried to give them away but my husband retrieved the box. It is still in the basement . I don’t think he has looked in the box in years.

Still have record albums in boxes, but never play them. The old cassette tapes I tried to give away eons ago were also retrieved by my husband. He did use them in an older sports car for quite a few years.

justjeff MrsPhilHarris 24 months ago
I wish I knew you... I'd gladly help you spirit those CDs away... especially if they were oldies compilation discs...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 24 months ago
🤪 None we’re burned. All purchased. Mixed bag of music. Everything from The Beatles, Phantom of The Opera, Louis Prima, The Rat Pack, Stevie Ray Vaughan, pub tunes, salsa, rock, pop, alternative, blues, classical, tv themes, British Invasion. The usual suspects like Queen, The Stones, INXS, etc.
LoveMETV22 24 months ago
That was a fun and nostalgic story on this National VCR Day. 📼 Funny how we have gone from
Video Cassette Recorder to Voice Command Recognition. I'm sure there are other acronyms funny or not. Although maybe not observed it's said National DVD Day is April 4. 📀
Pacificsun 24 months ago
One of the best things about the VCR/VHS days was Blockbuster, which I know MeTV did a story on. There was something so tangible about looking over a big clunky box to read the movie synopsis and enjoy the image. When Blockbuster died, it was all over.

I do have to laugh at people who could never quite figure out how to set one though, pretty funny! Not Rocket Science either!!
justjeff Pacificsun 24 months ago
12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM... 12:00 AM...
Your next stop? The Outer Limits.
Peter_Falk_Fan Pacificsun 24 months ago
I agree. It was fun to take the family to Blockbuster. I also liked to rent a video game to see if it was worth buying.
Parady Song
VCRs are here to stay
They will never die
It was meant to be that but I
Don't know why.
I don't care what people say
VCRs are here to stay.
This is My Prediction?
I Bag Zombroski and Wally Plumstead Fan Predict That
VCRS and Blank Videocassettes
And Prerecorded VHS tapes will all make a Surprise Comeback on APRIL 1 2030!!
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