Saturday, March 9, 2013

So Many Tapes But No VCR?

When I began picking tapes up again I'd forgotten I no longer had a working VCR to play them on, so I set about tracking one down. The problem was it's pretty difficult to find new ones these days and given the significant drop off in manufacturing quality as VHS was being phased out, even harder to find a recent unit that would last. On the other hand, to buy a vintage, well built second hand model leaves you with the risk of continual replacement of worn parts which can get expensive quickly. Unless you're lucky enough to find a seller who has a well looked after and regularly serviced VCR, but then you're looking at a potentially high asking price. Which ever way you decide to go, as time goes on it's only going to get harder to find a quality, functioning player.


I ended up with somewhere in between with a JVC 7500 S-VHS model, it's better built than most newer models (although it certainly could be better) and has excellent image quality. Having had a look under the lid, it seems to be in pretty decent shape. The only downside is JVC don't have the best reliability record where VCRs are concerned, but for the price I paid and the amount of use it's likely to get I'm pretty happy. More importantly than anything else, I can watch tapes again.

Under the bonnet

11 comments:

Wes M said...

Looks like you are ready for battle Mart... My old VCR is in my mother-in-law's and up to recently was still a working unit, its primary use was for recording (in the absense of say a Sky Planner). It was quietly retired when she got a freeview satellite system, but the VCR is still in good working shape. I should inquire about its future - even though I have only a handful of tapes left I'd hate to see it at the bottom of a wheelie-bin !

So what's the state of yr laserdisc player - it's still working away ? LD players still seem highly sought after, at least on eBay - there's plenty of bidding wars going on for the auctioned players. I've always wanted to see one in action. I love to read old Video Watchdogs for their laserdisc reviews - there was never a market in Ireland for lasers, so they still seem utterly strange, exotic and well...futuristic in a Terry Gilliamesque kind of way!

A hero never dies said...

Wes, Save it while you can! I can't help but think that soon enough all of them will die, and although most tapes maybe regarded as obsolete, a few are still the best versions or even only versions available.

The laserdisc player is still going strong and I'm still picking the odd one up every now and then. Look out for a couple coming up that I KNOW you'll love. Unfortunately the shipping costs are an absolute killer and only getting worse. The player bidding wars are a symptom of the exact issue I'm highlighting with the vcrs, the finite life of the parts in them! It is still and will forever be the coolest video format ever, the artwork and as you say, the futurism that remains even now will never be topped.

YTSL said...

Hi "A Hero Never Dies" --

I hope the VHS tapes you bought are still in working condition. I haven't viewed any of my VHS tapes in years -- and pray that they are all still okay.

I remember years ago at a family friend's place going through their VHS collection and finding tape after tape no longer working. It was a horrible experience for a videophile I can tell you... :S

I've recently bought a few DVDs of movies I own on VHS now that the DVDs of them have reappeared again. "Police Story III: Supercop" -- aaah, so good to find that it's good as I remember it. :)

Wes M said...

Great, looking forward to more Laser posts... YTSL, I know exactly what you mean about tapes and their condition - a lot of my tapes succumbed to mould, with the tape wheels clogged with that white flakey material. I once managed to remove most of it from the old Intervision tape of The Exterminator but despite some intricate surgery it was a lost cause - once that stuff gets a hold a tape is in trouble. DVD is not completely infallable eager - I recently popped Darren Aronofsky's Pi into the player and the disc wouldn't read - I looked at the surface of the disc and there were clusters of microscopic pin-prick holes a la disc rot. This edition of Pi is the R2 Pathé and it's possible that other Pathé discs from this era might have similar problems - luckily I don't think I have anything else on this label...

A hero never dies said...

Hi YTSL,

Luckily the tapes all look fine, tape mould can be a problem here, although I imagine yours will be more prone considering the humidity suffered in HK.

Have you still not been tempted by blu ray?

A hero never dies said...

Wes, I haven't found any dvds suffering from disc rot as yet, although a few have mentioned some old Mei Ah titles from HK are prone to it. I'm more concerned about some of the old laserdiscs I have which can really suffer, haven't found any yet though. Fingers crossed for them.

YTSL said...

Hi again "A Hero Never Dies" --

Nope, not tempted by blu ray. One big reason is that I've been doing more than 90% (maybe even 95%) of my film viewing on a big screen since moving to Hong Kong! :)

Dusty McGowan said...

I wish you the best of luck with your new/old VCR. The current thriving of VHS collecting is a fascinating one to me. It just raises a lot of questions: Have we lost something by going on this mission to make everything digitized and cleaned up? Was there something more honest about video tape? I don't know, but interesting to contemplate.

A hero never dies said...

Thanks Dusty, I agree, it's a fascinating movement the VHS collecting scene. From the really hardcore end of the spectrum right through to people just picking the odd one up for sentimental/nostalgic reasons. Certainly for me there was something special about putting a tape in a vcr for the first time in many years, hearing the clicks and whirs of the mechanism and waiting for a picture to appear to appear on the tv. I have neither the space nor the money to collect all the tapes I might have been interested in, so I'm sticking to the one label, anything else will be a one off. How about you?

Wes M said...

Yeah, Dusty's question is a good one. Maybe it's a sign of age - I know a good few readers including myself discovered movies on VHS so like the summers of youth which were always warm and sunny, VHS has a huge nostalgic kick and that link to the past really is powerful. Spend any time over at the Pre-Cert VHS forums and you'll inevitably find yourself checking eBay for some tape that caught your eye... It's been a good 3 or 4 years since I last watched a video but for the record that particular last picture show was the UK Nouveux Pictures edition of Paris Texas...

Tim Chuma said...

I ended up spending $100 getting a 6-head reconditioned JVC VCR from the local hifi store when I ended up getting a video stuck in my old one and tried to take it apart myself to get it out. Have not used it since but at least I have a VCR with a remote now. I still have the signed version of Heroic Trio to play on it.

I also still have stuff taped off SBS TV in Australia as they have the best subtitles available anywhere in yellow and with their own subtitling team.

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