END OF AN ERA

The last VCR will be manufactured this month

Obsession
Glass
Obsession
Glass

Surprising fact: there’s a company still making video-cassette recorders, or VCRs. But that will change at the end of this month.

Japan’s Funai Electronics, which makes its own electronics, in addition to supplying companies like Sanyo, will produce the last batch of VCR units by July 30, Nikkei reported (link in Japanese). The company cites difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as one of the reasons for halting production.

VCRs were launched about 40 years ago. With the rise of DVDs, Blu-ray and streaming services like Netflix, they’ve become completely obsolete. At its peak, Funai sold 15 million units of the home video system, Last year, it reported 750,000 in sales. Excluding hardcore fans, demand for VCRs is virtually nonexistent. Already there’s at least one generation that likely doesn’t know the joy of having a separate device dedicated to rewinding your tapes because that function ceased to work on the VCR—or the pain of being charged a fee for failing to return a rental tape fully rewound. Be kind rewind.

In the 1980s, the Video Home System (VHS) format won the war against Sony’s Betamax because of longer recording times, broader licensing rights and cheaper, more widely usable machines. However, its reign ended with the advent of the DVD in 1997. By 2003, DVDs left VHS rentals behind, never to look back. The last major theatrical release in the format—David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence”—was over a decade ago. Circuit City and Best Buy in the US stopped carrying VHS in 2005 and Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, discontinued its sales in early 2006.

The history of Betamax might give some hope to VHS-hoarders: Sony stopped production of its recorders in 2002 but only stopped selling the tapes last year.

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