In the era of digital video streaming, the news that the last company to make video cassette recorders (VCR) will no longer do so might might come as a surprise. But the surprise is that these machines were still being made at all.
Japanese electronics maker Funai, the last manufacturer to make and sell VCRs, has announced it's just too much trouble to keep making the machines. The company told the Japanese news agency Nikkei that it has experienced difficulty in locating and acquiring parts.
The fact that almost no one was buying these machines undoubtedly had something to do with the decision as well.
Exciting early days
Those old enough to remember early VCRs can recall an exciting era when it was suddenly possible to watch a fairly recent movie at home, at a time of the viewer's choosing. It required a VCR and a trip to a nearby retail store where the movies were rented.
Early video stores usually had movies along two opposing walls. On one wall were movies in the Sony Betamax format. On the other were movies in the RCA VHS format.
Consumers were either Beta or VHS. But because Sony did not license its technology to other manufacturers and RCA did, it wasn't long before the sheer size of the VHS community overwhelmed Beta, and by the end of the 1980s it was hard to find movies in that format.
Just last year, Sony announced it had ended production of Beta video cassettes for the few consumers still using Beta video cameras and VCRs. Funai's announcement that it is ending VCR production pretty much draws the curtain on a technology revolution that began in the late 1970s and became a market force the following decade.
What followed was the computer revolution, as consumers began to buy “home computers,” even though there were few uses for them beyond games. Every manufacturer used a different, proprietary platform, so most computers were not compatible with one another.
Then the internet came along and consumers and businesses suddenly found new uses for computers. As bandwidth increased, the internet became a way to watch video. When smartphones appeared, consumers found they could watch movies wirelessly, no matter where they were.
In that short span of technology history, the VCR went from exciting, cutting edge technology to something collecting dust in the back of the closet.
Will the VCR be missed? Probably not. It's hard to imagine that video on analog tape will ever gain a throwback following the way vinyl records have. From now on, the only VCRs will be found on eBay and at yard sales, and quite possibly someday, a museum.