Blog No. 86
VCRs used to be a big part of my life. That may seem weird (the importance of VCRs and the fact that I’m going to write a post about it) but it’s true. This isn’t even a desperate attempt at finding a topic for this week. I really wanted to write about this for some time, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I’m not even sure where I’m going from this paragraph, I just have some thought I want to work out and I’m going to use this blog to vent and hope it all comes together by the end.
I come from a family of re-watchers. Movies, TV, books, games, places – I grew up revisiting these things, learning to enjoy the things I discovered the first time and notice new things the second time around (or third or, you get the idea). I know many people who have rarely, if ever, watched a movie more than once. To them a VCR was just a convenient way to watch movies. They would rent something at the store, return it, and get something new. If there wasn’t anything new that interested them, they would just not watch anything that day. To me, that kind of thinking is bonkers. Did my family rent new movies? Yeah, all the time, but we also bought a lot of movies. We would often go out a buy a movie that we liked when we rented it.
Eventually it got to the point where it was just easier and more cost effective to skip the rental and buy the tape. My parents had (my mom has spent the last couple of years converting everything to DVD) hundreds of tapes (over 600 at least). I’m not exaggerating. My mom made a number system so we could find everything. And we didn’t stop buying things when DVDs took over. My parents have a sizable DVD collection too. I personally have a large VHS collection, but I hit my stride when DVDs took the scene (I have several hundred myself). But what the heck does any of this mean. I’m not sure. Stick with me.
The first VCR my parents bought was a huge grey monolith that cost them something like a thousand dollars in the late 70s. It wasn’t a top loader, but it was a beast of a thing. It weighed more than what my TV does now. I think you can justify the price because it was such a new technology at the time, but it’s still hard for me to get me head around. What helped was that it came with a free year of rentals. The grey leviathan moved from TV to TV around my house. It was replaced with a newer, cheaper model and went to my parent’s room for a time. One day my dad came home with a big screen TV and a fancy four head VCR. The grey goliath moved again, this time paired with its old partner, but now in the basement. When I was 14, we moved and it came with us, but DVDs were starting to be a threat and by the time I was out of high school the shift down of technology meant that there was no more room for the now ailing hulk.
My parents bought a DVD player and I got one for a birthday. My brother got an XBOX that played DVDs and the tapes sat more and more. A VCR/DVD combo eventually became the last tape player in the house. I’ve long moved out and my brother and I have gone all digital. My parents have even started playing with that. They still have the combo box, even though most of their movies have been converted. I still have a VCR too. It’s in a box with my DVD player and an Atari. (My VCR was actually free from the video store where I used to work, but that’s a different story). I’m still a big re-watcher and I still have a lot of tapes and DVDs. They, and the big grey box, are an odd narrative in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever forget about all the time I spent with them (in whatever room it was set up).
To some people it may seem like a lot of time wasted, but I enjoyed it. Sure, I could have used some of that time to get an earlier start on my writing, but it’s paying off now in the form of this post (and all those fond memories). I think, in the end, my parents got more than their initial investment. Countless family movie nights, vigorous discussions about what we watched, excited trips to the video store, and the memories of it all. That VCR was our family’s camp fire (and I was the remote). It may seem sappy and silly, but I really do think it made us closer.