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Author Topic: Your VHS Autobiography  (Read 730 times)
bluebettle
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« on: November 15, 2009, 10:34:57 PM »

I originally posted this over at the torrent site cinemageddon, and have been going to a lot of film and television based torrent sites and message boards asking for the same thing. (and editing to for the appropriate site, of course)

Right now, I am working on this project where I am investigating the consumer landscape of VHS industry during its prime, inception and downfall.
In addition to the facts and figures, I thought that it would also be very important to get some anecdotal information from people who were consumers at the time, and I figured if I'd find anyone obsessed with VHS, or just film and other media in general, it would be at people at bad film message boards.

What I am basically looking for is your autobiography when it comes to your experiences with VHS;

-When did you first begin to notice the technology? What year was it, and how old were you? And what was your first reactions to learning about home video? Did you have extensive exposure to tape technology before you actually owned a tape player? (like, did you go over to a friend's house all the time who owned/parents own a tape player?)

-When you first purchased a VCR/BetaMax, and what did you use it for (did you buy pre-recorded tapes? Mostly use it to tape television?) If you had pre-recorded videos, which ones did you buy, and why? How many did you own, and how large did your collection grow over the years?

-How big of a role did the tape player have in your life? Was it a hobby; something that your life revolved around? Or was it just an appliance that collected dust? How big a role did it play in your family's life?

-Where would you attain your videos? Would you rent them? Buy them?

And, most importantly, I would like to know what was your emotional attachment to the technology. Obviously, it can't be as strong as an emotional attachment you would feel for a loved one, but I remember as a kid feeling a certain excitement walking through the video store that was pretty impressionable. Do you have any certain specific emotional attachments to the technology that you remember?

I would also like to hear from anyone if they actually worked in the video industry during the time of VHS. What your job was, what your experiences where, how the industry changed over time etc.

I'll probably would like to ask a couple of follow-up questions too, if you would be willing.

Thanks a lot,
Me.
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Jack
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« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2009, 08:29:45 AM »

I was first aware of the technology back in the early '80s, when I was in high school.  I wasn't interested at all, as the players were very expensive and being a teenager, I had a life (ah, the memories  TeddyR ).  I first watched something on a VCR in about 1982 - '83, when I went over to a friend's house and we watched Star Wars.  We eventually purchased our own VCR in the mid-late '80s.  I used it exclusively for recording movies.  Renting or buying movies didn't have any interest to me at the time.  The first movie I ever recorded was Lifeforce.  I also recorded pretty much everything with Schwarzenegger or Stallone in it. 

By the early '90s I had built up a collection of maybe 75 tapes, with three movies on each one.  I'd get interested in a TV show and want to record every episode, and agonize over which tapes to record over.  Also in the early '90s, we started renting a lot of tapes.  I can't remember why, we must have just gotten into the habit.  And my wife was renting a lot of stuff for the kids - anything for a 90 minute babysitter.  I think we unintentionally made our kids into movie buffs.  Daughter #2 has a collection of about 100 DVD's now.  By that time I was renting every movie by Jean Claude Van Damme.  I had two VCR's, so almost everything I would rent would get recorded and added to my collection. 

I eventually joined the RCA movie service (at least I think it was RCA), so I'd buy their movie of the month, either because I liked it or I was too lazy to send back the "don't send me this one" card.  I purchased quite a few additional movies from them.  The first movie I ever bought in a store was the Star Wars trilogy, back in the days before Lucas started editing them.  I also got a surround sound system so I could get the whole experience. 

I didn't get on the DVD bandwagon until the technology had been around for several years.  The main point of a VCR was to be able to record stuff, so DVD players didn't hold much appeal to me at first.  By that time I had hundreds of VHS tapes.  Many boughten, but still the vast majority recorded off TV. 

Emotional attachment?  Not too much really.  I used it a lot, but it was just a piece of technology.  I guess I've got some fond memories of it now, like everyone else;  browsing through the "obscure" horror titles at Blockbuster, my wife and I having Friday night dates at home with a rented movie, or the way you'd get to the end credits and the picture would go all crazy because 200 previous renters had hit rewind at that point.  I just bought a new VCR recently to transfer my VHS collection to DVD.  Almost all my tapes are in several boxes down in the basement, except for about 20 of them I'm still meaning to record.  I still buy the ocassional VHS tape, as some of the stuff I like will probably never make it to DVD, or maybe there's some movie that costs $20 on DVD, but I can get a used VHS tape of it for $1.
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The Burgomaster
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« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2009, 09:27:33 AM »

My original machine was a Beta format - - big, clunky, and heavy!  I got it somewhere around 1980.

I was one of the first kids around to get one, so my friends often congregated at my house after school to watch movies.

I got a membership at a video rental store - - back then you had to pay for the membership.  The deal I got was I paid something like $90 to join and I could rent movies for about $3 apiece and keep them as long as I wanted.  Whenever I wanted to quit the club, I could keep any 3 (used) movies I wanted.

I also remember that I wanted to buy a copy of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.  It cost about $79.95 back then and my parents talked me out of it.  I was mad at first, but looking back on it, I agree with  their decision.  I ended up buying it on VHS later, and much cheaper.

After a few years (when Beta started to fade), I bought a VHS machine.  I remember renting my first two movies for it.  One was CROSS OF IRON . . . I forget what the other one was, but I think it was a horror movie.

Believe it or not,  my dad still has that old, clunky Beta machine.  He refuses to part with it because, in his words, "It still works."

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« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2009, 12:41:24 PM »

The technology started to become prevalent when I was in high school in 1984-1986, when I was about 15-17.  I remember my gf's family was an early adopter of Betamax.  The first thing I recall watching on video were the Monty Python movies.  Also, BARBARIAN QUEEN and DEATHSTALKER.  I was hooked immediately.

My family did it's research and bought a VHS instead of Betamax.  I spent my time at the video store picking out and watching old classics and mixing them up with genre flicks, especially ones with lots of T&A.   

I purchased my first VCR after graduating college in 1990.  I almost never bought prerecorded tapes, but rented constantly.  Tapes I did buy were all bargain bin selections; I don't remember too many of the titles, but crappy stuff like NINJA QUEEN BOXER and THE HUSTLER SQUAD.  I also built up quite a collection by taping things off Cinemax or Showtime.  Later, I purchased an extra VCR just so I could duplicate rented tapes.  I probably had close to 1,000 movies on video by the time I quit doing this.  I threw all the tapes I copied illegally away several years ago, mostly for space reasons.  I had no attachment to them and found I didn't re-watch them anyway.   

I still have a few VHS tapes, mostly stuff that is not in print on DVD.  THE REFLECTING SKIN, NOSTALGHIA, MEET THE FEEBLES, FEMALE TROUBLE.  Some of these were bought recently specifically because they are not available on DVD. 

I have no real attachment to the technology.  It took me a while to adapt to DVD, but now I prefer it slightly over VHS. 
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« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2009, 12:53:53 PM »

The 1st VHS I ever put into a VCR was Conan the Barbarian (1982), I'm almost sure of it.
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Jim H
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« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2009, 03:10:29 PM »

I was born in 1983, and my dad was a fairly early adopter of BETA.  I'm assuming you don't mind if I also talk about my BETA experiences, as VHS came considerably later for me.

"-When did you first begin to notice the technology? What year was it, and how old were you? And what was your first reactions to learning about home video? Did you have extensive exposure to tape technology before you actually owned a tape player? (like, did you go over to a friend's house all the time who owned/parents own a tape player?)"

It was always around me, my earliest memories of it are when I was 3 or 4.  I used to watch Little Shop of Horrors (remake), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Howard the Duck on beta all the time.  Star Wars too, of course.  I didn't technically own these players, I guess, but they were mine to use as I grew up.  We got a VHS player at some point in the 90s when BETA blank tapes were starting to get hard to find.  Oh yeah, that's another thing, my dad almost never bought pre-recorded tapes.  We had a few, but they were so expensive my dad wasn't willing to buy them.  But, we had HBO, Cinemax, AMC (back when it was good and didn't have commercials), and my dad was very good at programming the thing.  Needless to say, we had a TON of movies recorded on tape.  Hundreds of them.

"-When you first purchased a VCR/BetaMax, and what did you use it for (did you buy pre-recorded tapes? Mostly use it to tape television?) If you had pre-recorded videos, which ones did you buy, and why? How many did you own, and how large did your collection grow over the years?"

I've never bought one.  Basically I've acquired several tape players from people giving them away.  They sure break a lot though, which is very annoying.  Myself, I have bought a number of pre-recorded tapes.  Mostly used ones at video stores when they were clearancing them out.  I mostly bought genre works, horror/scifi/action etc.  Most of the tapes I bought new were very difficult to find Chinese films.  I still have these, and they were very expensive back then.  From amazon, they were about $33, from the original importer $40.  Probably bought 20 tapes in that price range.  Even regular American tapes were too expensive in the pre-DVD era for me to be interested.  In total, at its peak (most of our recorded-off-tv tapes were recycled a while ago - they were getting so old they were losing the signals and were not too watchable anymore, and I don't record VHS anymore), I'd say were owned probably 500 tapes.  It's hard to estimate, as they were stored rather haphazardly.  Nowadays we have around 100. 

"-How big of a role did the tape player have in your life? Was it a hobby; something that your life revolved around? Or was it just an appliance that collected dust? How big a role did it play in your family's life?"

Pretty big.  We watched movies on a regular basis, watched films while eating sometimes, etc.  The tape player made a big difference in my childhood because my dad was always taping something (movies, sports, Star Trek, etc) while he was away, which sometimes interfered with regular TV watching.  Kind of annoying.

"-Where would you attain your videos? Would you rent them? Buy them?"

In the late era, I bought a few off the internet (I still do once in a great while).  In the older days, before I could even drive a car, I'd bike down to the video store to rent VHS tapes.  I watched a lot of stuff that way.

"And, most importantly, I would like to know what was your emotional attachment to the technology. Obviously, it can't be as strong as an emotional attachment you would feel for a loved one, but I remember as a kid feeling a certain excitement walking through the video store that was pretty impressionable. Do you have any certain specific emotional attachments to the technology that you remember?"

I don't have a big attachment directly to the tech itself, but more the video stores at the time and how the films were back then.  Going down to the video store (and I know I missed the biggest era, in the 80s) in the early to mid 90s was just a more exciting experience than now.  The direct-to-video stuff of the era was bad, just like it generally is now, but they had a charm that current stuff just doesn't have.  Not to mention just walking around looking at the covers was a lot more fun - WAAAAAY better covers back then.  You'd see some weird imports which had far different packaging.  Remember the VHS tapes that came in those big boxes, and were ALWAYS terrible?  You also pretty rarely got shot on video stuff back then, and the requirement to shoot on film (generally, Polonias excepted and such) meant there was a bit of filter for the bottom-of-the-rung film making. 

Plus, this was before the independent chains had died off, and that was what I went to, and they had a great stock of films.
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JaseSF
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« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2009, 07:47:03 PM »

Hmm well I recall that VCRs weren't very prominent in these parts (rural Newfoundland) until the early-mid-80s.  The first exposure I had to one was when my father rented a VCR (yes you could rent the machines back then for like 20 bucks and with it, he got like four-five free movie rentals) (I was probably around 10-12 years old). My Dad was very much into comedy so he rented mostly comedy fare from the time...stuff like Bachelor Party, Revenge of the Nerds, Police Academy, etc..  I was a big wrestling fan and so begged him to rent WWF wrestling vids for me as I was enthralled by Coliseum Video WWF releases such as the Best of the WWF Vols. 1-20, Inside the Steel Cage, WWF Wrestling Classic and more.

We didn't actually own a VCR until the mid-80s (I'm thinking 1986) when my Dad finally bought one. We used to rent mainly at that time as we had only two TV channels to choose from via antenna and the reception was crap on both so I rarely recorded anything until about 1989 when I started recording some WWF Superstars of Wrestling (wish I still had those tapes but the quality was probably crap anyways).  No we rented videos and sometimes I'd go down to a neighbor's house (who had a son about my age) and we'd get together and watch films. First time I saw Big Trouble In Little China and American Ninja was in that fashion.

I didn't own my own VCR until the 1990s which was actually my parents cast off old VCR (which still worked fine and in fact would outlast their newer model). I used it to tape mainly wrestling and classic Star Trek which at the time where the two things I most rewatched. Eventually I got into taping more and more stuff in the late 1990s when I finally had access to satellite TV (the time my interest in anime, classic sci-fi, cult B-films really blossomed as I found these in ample supply via satellite TV, especially late night) and eventually I rented far less and less and taped more and more. I must have had a couple hundred recorded tapes (with 3 or 4 movies on each - or as many as 6-8 TV episodes whatever the case might be) and probably close to that amount in store bought commercial VHS videos. I really got into the commercial VHS videos when I joined Columbia House (i initially got all the Star Wars and Star Trek films) and then later when I went to University, I frequently found myself visiting the local video stores in my spare time not to mention bargain bins and flea markets searching for cheap VHS classics. Actually I think satellite lowered my interest in renting VHS because I rarely did that anymore once I had access to satellite TV. I noticed that as satellite and cable TV (we couldn't get cable where I lived but they could in the next town) expanded in my area, rental stores tended to go out of business.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2009, 08:11:45 PM by xXx_JaseSF_xXx » Logged

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