In 2006, the last film by a major studio to be released on VHS was The History of Violence. Since then, the VHS has only had limited new releases, often in the form of marketing gimmicks. After all, nobody uses VHS tapes to watch films anymore now that DVDs and Blu-ray exist, right?
The age of the VHS was a glorious time. No longer were people constrained to just watching the latest blockbusters in cinemas, people could buy or rent their very own copy of their favourite film to watch whenever they liked. Of course, compared to the likes of streaming services, the VHS is nowhere close to the realm of convenience we have today.
The world of home film entertainment has changed drastically over just a few decades. Once upon a time the only way to see the latest Hollywood blockbusters was to head down to a cinema, now you can head to Netflix and browse thousands of titles and watch any you want with just the touch of a button.
Technology has come so far; it’s hard to imagine the days when we couldn’t watch any film we wanted in the comfort of our own homes. So how did the home film entertainment industry begin, and where might it go in the future?
In the late 90s and early 2000s, a new kid on the block emerged to kick VHS to the curb. It was shiny and new, smaller and more compact, it was the Digital Versatile Disc, better known as the DVD.
For twenty years, VHS enjoyed a comfortable spot as the most beloved home entertainment system. As well as being able to record home movies and family footage, VHS tapes could be bought pre-recorded with all the latest Hollywood releases. Heading down to Blockbuster to pick out a VHS film to watch with the family became the hottest thing to do on a Friday night. How could such a popular and beloved format have become so obsolete?
Over the last few decades technology has developed rapidly. Nowadays it feels as if we only cling to the latest model of phone or laptop for mere months before the newest version gets released and makes ours feel obsolete. However, whilst your version of the iPhone from over a year ago might feel like an outdated piece of tech compared to the newest model, it’s nothing compared to the advancements made in the 20th century.
The tables have turned and turntables are spinning once again in the bedrooms of thousands of people across the country after years of silence. The medium was dead in the dust for mainstream use; digital had taken over, it held a pillow over vinyl’s face as it slept and watched as it took its final breath. But perhaps that pillow should have been held a little longer, vinyl wasn’t dead, it was very much alive and kicking.
If you’re still clinging on to a pile of old VHS tapes that you haven’t backed up, you should be aware of how long those tapes will still be useable. Even if you take incredibly good care of them, VHS tapes will eventually deteriorate. By the very nature of their components, VHS just wasn’t built to stand the test of time.
So, just how do tapes deteriorate even when left alone in storage? And approximately how long can you expect them to remain intact?
When it comes to technology, there is no denying that digital has analogue beat every time. Analogue and digital are both signals used to transmit information, such as audio and/or video, that is transformed into electric signals. The main difference is that analogue information is translated into electric pulses of varying amplitude, whereas digital translates information into binary format. Analogue voltages continuously change, whereas digital voltage has defined levels.
Once you’ve converted those old home videos to a more convenient format such as DVD or MP4, you may be wondering what to do with those old tapes. Maybe you’ve finally gotten around to buying your favourite films on DVD, so you no longer need those VHS versions you bought decades ago. Whatever the case, VHS tapes take up a lot of space, and once the footage has been preserved and upgraded, there really isn’t any need to keep this old format lying around.
In today’s technological age with DVDs, Blu-Rays, online streaming and catch-up TV, it’s no wonder that the likes of the VHS tape just couldn’t compete. However, when these plucky tapes first cropped up, it was revolutionary. Coupled with the VHS recorder, which allowed people to record live broadcasts to watch whenever they liked, this technology truly paved the way for the incredible achievements made in the realm of home cinema entertainment.