The New York Times reports that Funai Electric of Japan will cease production of its VHS VCR lines this August. After that, there will be no more producers of this venerable technology.
VCRs were first produced in the mid-1950s and cost $50,000 each! The first consumer versions were marketed in the 1960s but serious household use got underway in the mid-1970s with the so-called Betamax-VHS format war.
Although Sony's Betamax system offered better quality, it suffered shorter recording times and was more expensive than machines using JVC's VHS format. In the end, these qualities, plus the greater availability of pornography on VHS tapes, gave the latter market dominance.
In 1984, the US Supreme court ruled that it is legal for customers to record TV shows with VCRS in order to watch them after broadcast time. Universal Studios had argued that this behavior violated copyright laws and was damaging to their business. The decision helped to spur VCR sales, arguably without decreasing interest in theater-going.
A student in class reminded me the other day of the old "Be kind—rewind" stickers that used to come attached to VHS tapes rented from video stores. I suspect it will not be long before none of my students can recall such a thing.
DVDs were introduced in 1997 and surpassed VHS tapes in marketshare five years later. Soon, remaining VHS tapes will be playable only on used equipment.
Even so, there are many videos that remain available only on VHS.
Here at Waterloo, classroom projection systems still include VHS-DVD combo players for when the need arises. I have played at least a couple of VHS tapes for my classes in the last couple of years. Copyright laws make it problematic to transfer old videos to new formats, so I hope that our old decks will last a little while longer.