23
Nov 04

RIP VHS

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RIP VHS: Marky Mark Lawson on the downfall of VHS. I can’t comment on the ‘common culture’ stuff as I was just a kid back then, but his evocations of overwritten and thick-piled videotape labels obscure one key aspect of the video: in my experience, at least, nobody ever watched the things. Oh, certainly, there were rare occasions when you would miss a program, tape it and actually watch it later, but what the VCR mostly brought was the possibility of “time-shifting”, not the reality.

For one thing it brought television closer to the sphere of cultural guilt-tripping, where the books on your shelf are reminders of an intellectual lack (i.e. you haven’t read the buggers) rather than mementos of intellectual journeys. Taping a programme that you “meant to watch” was a handy compromise between missing it and watching it. For another the bar of what was (theoretically) worth keeping was lowered – it was a short step between making sure you didn’t miss a particular Panorama and taping six-part documentaries on the Gobi desert ‘just in case’. And it introduced the collector mentality to television – I used to have videotapes of every episode of Star Cops taped while I watched. I knew it was drivel, but maybe, just maybe, I might want to watch it again. The result was mountains of never-watched tapes (and as someone who owns rather a lot of Dr Who videos, I know exactly how bulky they can be). So no, I won’t mourn it.

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