December 14, 2016

Remember when - $995.00 for a VCR, 1977

Although to be fair, this isn't just a VCR - no, it's got a 24-hour timer, so you can record your favorite shows whenever you want! (As long as it's not more than 24 hours from now.) Just take a look at that digital clock!

After so many years of talk about the ability of the average person to record a television show, the VCR is now a reality. But there's so much more - record one show while watching another! Produce your own home sound movies! You can even use it to monitor the baby's room! And it's BETA, so you know it will never go out of style.

I wonder if, back in 1977, people had any idea how this would revolutionize the television experience? Not the VCR itself, as anyone who ever walked into someone's home and saw the blinking clock can attest. No, the VCR was just a waystation, the first, on a journey that would include the DVD player, the DVR (with the ability to pause and replay live television), watching TV on your computer, watching TV on your phone, going from renting a VHS cassette to streaming online video, and the list goes on. Perhaps its most significant impact was what it did to viewing habits: thanks to the VCR and its successors, we no longer have shared experiences; we don't watch shows at the same time, we binge watch entire seasons at one sitting - we have, in fact, become very much a separated people.

All this is true, and yet I can't tell you how grateful I am for this technology. (Even though I wrote an entire story trying to explain it.) I'm old enough to remember before VCRs even existed, and the idea you could watch a program you'd missed, or watch it over again - well, there are no words.

Considering how much a top-of-the-line blu-ray player costs today, considering how much a DVR cost as recently as a few years ago, a thousand dollars for a pioneer machine like this, one that even seems a bit crude, makes you laugh. And yet, if people back then had known the revolution it would have spawn, things they couldn't even imagine - well, they probably would have considered it cheap at double the price.


  1. I think I bought my first VCR around 1978-it was almost $400 even then.

  2. For the early adopters...

  3. I didn't get my first VCR until 1989-$40. Now you can go on Black Friday to pick up a new DVD player for $20.

  4. I got my first VCR in '84 IIRC - $300. You may or may not recognize the name: Gold Star (Korean), company still exists, now it's LG electronics.
    The first Sony's came out in '75 (Beta) and were super expensive - $5000 for the VCR alone, $7500 VCR plus TV ($22,430.58/$33,645.86 today - literally the same prices as new cars, then and now). VHS came out the next year (yep, a grand - $4,486.12 today).
    To put it bluntly, three things killed Beta: 2 hour recording on VHS (suitable for movies), anyone could license and produce VHS tapes (Sony monopolized Beta to the extent that even Hollywood was forced to release films for Beta through Sony) and because of that studios didn't have to have Sony's approval for film releases on tape. Which means the porn industry could market to VHS (Sony said ''no porn on Beta'').
    By the time I got my first VCR video rental was already everywhere and just a few years later, '86 even Sony started to give up and began making VHS VCRs.

  5. BTW, the VCR is officially extinct, the last ones produced July 2016. Just about 40 years from the time the VHS was introduced.

  6. Late adopter here... 1988. The thought of watching one show and taping another, or even better, taping a show without the TV being on, was just too mind blowing!

  7. My family got our first VCR in 1986 - it had a wired remote control!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!