Friday, November 19, 2010


The 80s and 90s were the heyday of VCRs. Whether I was using it to tape David Letterman while I was at work, recording Mystery Science Theater 3000 and circulating the tapes to friends or watching a movie rented from the local drugstore for 99 cents, my VCR was in constant use. Technology has moved forward and now we have DVD players and DVRs. If I was a rich man or semi-rich or middle class or solvent in any way I would already have set my home system up with a DVR to record more hours of programming than I could watch in my life-time and replaced all my old VHS tapes with shiny, new laser-etched discs from the future.

What I am, however, is an occupant of paycheck-to-paycheck island where the palm trees produce $1 packs of chicken franks and the water is filled with those damn Wal-Mart smiley faces. In the living room I do have a DVD player, but I can’t afford a DVR. Last year both my VCRs and my cheap DVD player in the bedroom all died within a month of each other. My sister gave me a VCR she wasn’t using so I at least have 1, but I would still like to have one in the bedroom.

Being an intrepid explorer I logged on to Google to search for a VCR. The initial response from the world’s largest search engine was “You’re still using a VCR? Hey everybody, this doofus is still using a VCR!” I thought that was a bit rude so I tried again. “Oh my God, you were serious? You’re actually searching for a VCR in 2010!” was the answer I received this time. So I said screw Google and tried other search engines with these results:

Microsoft—“Our algorithms are set up to search only for things that are relevant”
Yahoo—“VCRs? Yeah I remember them. They were still popular when I was on top. Good times, good times.”
Ask Jeeves—“Holy crap! Someone is using me to do a search! Yes! See world, I’m not dead yet!”

Unfortunately I had to crawl back to Google like the Alaskan GOP to Lisa Murkowski. I was led to Ebay where many sellers were offering used VCRs for small amounts of currency. So I bought one and when it arrived in the mail I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning who had asked for a toy fire engine and instead got a piece of molded Chinese plastic out of a happy meal. I hooked it up, popped in a tape and pressed play.

The movie I had blindly grabbed is a 1950s low budget sci-fi movie called The Deadly Mantis which is about a giant praying mantis on the attack. It’s been a while since I watched it but I remembered there being actors and scenery. What I was seeing from my new VCR was snow and jagged lines which made it very difficult to follow the plot. I stopped it and pressed rewind. The tape went back for a few seconds and shut off. I pressed again and again and again and again until the three minutes of tape had finally rewound completely. With a sad shake of my head and a realization that technologically I felt like an ape trying to open a nut with a rock, I pressed “eject”. Then I pressed it again. And again. And again. And again.

My tape is still in the VCR two days later. I get up every morning and think “maybe today’s the day” but alas, it’s not to be. This weekend I will have to perform surgery to get my movie back from the belly of the beast.

The Ebay seller was very apologetic and my money was refunded within hours of my contacting them. I’m still without a VCR in the bedroom. My rows of VHS tapes stare at me forlornly, wondering when they will again be a part of my life. Sadly, I have no answer for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment