Oh My Tech!: It's time to get rid of that VHS once and for all

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: December 6, 2012 09:31PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 11:32PM
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Vince Horiuchi

I need a second VCR for the guest room. My husband says to get a Blu-ray, as the VCRs will become obsolete. I would use the machine only to watch our collection of [movies] and what we rent at Blockbuster, as long as it is still in business. — Cathy Perryman, Salt Lake City.

Wow!

It’s been a while since I encountered someone who still uses the old VHS videotape recorder. In fact, it’s so old, I bet I would have to sit down and explain what it is to my kids.

Your husband’s right. The VCR has gone the way of the Dodo, the Model T and the 8-track tape, after the first machine was introduced to the public by JVC in 1976. Long live the VCR.

The thought reminds me of my first machine in the early 1980s, a dense, black JVC recorder that weighed about 30 pounds and cost me something like $600. One of the first movies I ever bought for it was a copy of “Return of the Jedi,” for more than $90, a purchase I still regret to this day.

So you can see just how old the VHS format is. Since then, DVDs have taken over, followed by Blu-rays and now streaming video.

The one real benefit to VHS machines was that you could record television shows, something you couldn’t do on the first DVD and Blu-ray players. Cathy didn’t mention that she wanted to record television shows, but even if she did, I would still recommend not getting a VHS machine.

Incidentally, it would be a little difficult to find a cheap VCR these days without going to a site such as eBay or to the classifieds. Manufacturers stopped making the machines a long time ago, and movie studios stopped shipping movies on the VHS format in 2006. If you still have VHS tapes — especially if they’re old home movies — you can buy a combo player that has a DVD player and VHS player built in.

If you want to record shows, the best bet is to go with a digital video recorder. They record the programming on large harddrives given that all television networks are broadcast digitally. The devices are easy to use and don’t require tapes or discs. If you subscribe to Comcast cable or either of the satellite services, they make boxes with built-in DVRs.

For watching movies, you want to go with a Blu-ray player, which not only can play high-definition Blu-ray discs but also is backward compatible to play DVDs. You can get a good Samsung or Toshiba model for as little as $70, which incidentally is cheaper than any remaining VHS machine I’ve found for sale online.

If you have a high-definition TV, watching a Blu-ray movie is the only way to go. The high-resolution picture and the quality of sound are unbeatable.

Cathy also told me in another email that she subscribes to Comcast’s Internet service, which means she has high-speed broadband connectivity.

Another popular option for watching movies is streaming video. Services such as Vudu, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix let users stream films directly to their TVs over their Internet connections, so there’s no need to rent movies at a video store. If you buy a Blu-ray player, get one that has built-in movie streaming apps and a built-in Wi-fi adapter.

With today’s technology, there are so many more options for watching movies on your TV than just sliding in an old VHS tape.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.