Golden Days of The Video Cassette Recorder (VCR)
Remember those days of the 80s and early 90s when our favorite stop in the local market would be the “Video Library” that succeeded in delighting us each time we went there. The era that was ruled and dominated by a gadget loved by one and all, old or young – the Video Cassette Recorder or more commonly the VCR.
The 80s was a time when cable tv had far from reached India in any form. It was a time where just one tech was to shine – the Video Cassette Recorder. As it so happened, the people had no choice whatsoever in watching programmes on the Television as the only channel available was the Doordarshan (more popularly DD) and later the DD Metro which in fact seemed a big bonus! It seemed just a perfect setting for something like a Video Cassette Recorder to make its presence felt and counted.
The Video Cassette Recorder opened up to the Indian people a whole new world of entertainment that was unknown prior to this. From watching just the news or documentaries sprinkled sparsely with a pinch of weekly serials, the common man now had the luxury of enjoying movies at the comfort of his bedroom – right from the old classics to the latest flicks of Bollywood.
Video Cassette Recorders used removable video cassettes (video tapes) which used magnetic tapes to record videos on them. What this meant was, not only could one watch prerecorded cassettes for films but they could also record shows and broadcast from the television that could be played on later! This was pure magic!!! Of course, there was on offer a cheaper variant of the VCR which we called the VCP – Video Cassette Player – which could only playback the cassette but not record.
The advent of VCRs in India gave a perfect opportunity for the business in the form of “Video Libraries” to flourish! Every local market had at a minimum 2 to 3 libraries to boast of, all of whom could comfortably survive despite t competition as the demand much overdid the supply by a huge margin. I still remember our very own “Micky Video Library” and the “Lords” library which were such hot spots in those times, the first one ironically being located in a small narrow lane was just a tiny little room with a collection of some hundred videos. The latter was a much more dignified a place with a far bigger collection of both Hindi and English movies and an air conditioned shop to flaunt! But to be honest it hardly mattered, as what was important was to get that latest release on the first chance – damn if it was pirated or if you had to shell out a few extra bucks!
The early VCRs were top loading models where you inserted the cassette in a slot that popped out from the top of the VCR on pressing the “Eject” button. It was later followed by the more sleek and improved versions of VCRs that were front loading, had a more appealing and modern feel to them, not to forget the constantly improved features being added One such feature I remember was the availability of a “Timer” where you could actually set the time at which the VCR would start recording!
It was not just Video Libraries that flourished. Video Cassette Recorders provided a remarkable opportunity for small time technicians and engineers with so many of these “Video Repair” shops that sprung up. The VCR functioned with a revolving “Head”with a small little pin which read the magnetic tape on the cassette. As was expected, with the dust and physical contact, invariably you would be faced with a situation where your “Head” went dirty and you needed either a “head cleaner” sprayed on it to get it cleaned, or in extreme cases, you had to take it to one of those repair shops.
The VCRs also ushered in an age of many different and new forms of entertainment revolving around the Television. Besides just movies, they also opened up doors to the Pakistani Plays which are remembered even till date. It brought to our homes some lovable characters from plays such as Dhoop Kinare and Tanhaiyan that became a part of our lives and live with us even today. And then there were those “Film Magazines”. I am not talking about the Fimfares or Star Dusts. The VCRs brought in the concept of video magazines such as “Leheren” which became a household name. They were basically around one hour shows that gave you the news from the Hindi Film Industry – something that today’s channels are full of and has now become such a taken for granted thing! At those times, such video magazines were your only re source to actually get live snippets into the lives of film stars or to watch the shooting of a film! Such an exciting thing it used to be!
A thing most reminiscent of those times was the quality of video that you got to watch – what was in the common language referred to as the “print” of the cassette. So often did you have to return a video as “the print” was so bad! So unlike the CDs and DVDs of today where there are no issues with the quality that you get to watch. But somehow, remembering it today, one somewhere in his heart wishes for those little nick-nags that today’s over-perfect world has totally eliminated:(
And how can one forget that “Counter” you had in those days on the VCRs. It was a small three digit counter with revolving dials that showed numbers 0-9 on each dial to represent the length of the video that had been played:) Starting from 000 it went on to 999 and was such a simple and a remarkable display of how a basic little concept could be put to such pertinent use! It was later replaced by a digital counter with the introduction of more enhanced and improved VCRs which offered a digital display. Again it is one of those things that make you wonder – do we really need all this advancement! Why have we forgotten to keep things simple:(
How can one ever forget that sound of a video cassette “Rewinding” and that distinct “thud” with which it stopped or when you pressed that “Stop” button! My heart goes out to those times:oops: Its truly is such a high reliving those moments from the past. I remember how the summer break meant so many films on the VCR, daily visits to the video library – which had even started home delivery and the phone services – some even going as far as providing a printed list of movies they had in their store! I even recall that as kids we used to get an extra VCR on hire for a few days as you could interconnect them with your VCR with a cable and actually make copies of the cassettes. To think of it now, how did I ever take that much of trouble to record a cassette! But then, that was the magic of those times.
One just is forced to think – why does technology have such a crab mentality where it needs to pull someone down to be able to climb up:( Why does each new technology have to kill its predecessor. Why can’t the old and the new coexist? Why cant we have the old with the new. I am only thankful and feel privileged to have experienced and used these winners of the past.
Thanks for joining in, see you next week, same day, same time with another pick from the past in The Lost Technology…