VHS is Dead. Next: DVD. Then Blu-Ray.

By  |  Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 11:54 am

supermanii1Maybe I’m just not very observant, but I never notice old media formats going away until they’re…gone. One moment, the record stores down at my local malls still stocked vinyl. And then they didn’t. Audio cassettes? Same thing. And now the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Distribution Video Audio, the last major distributor of VHS tapes, is calling it quits on videotape. Everybody seems to be taking this is the closest thing we’ll get to an official death warrant for VHS, which seems perfectly reasonable.

I never noticed Blockbuster or Hollywood Video shrinking their tape sections into nothingness to make room for DVD. But even in my home, VHS ain’t what it used to be. I moved in July; so far, I haven’t bothered to set up my VCR at my new house, though it’s in working condition and ready for duty should I need it. Which I probably will, since I have several hundred VHS tapes–including some good stuff that has never been released on DVD. (I keep telling myself I need to dub them all to DVD before they rot away, and I will…but almost everything is still in surprisingly good shape, or was the last time I checked.)

It doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long since I bought my VCR and had to choose between VHS and Beta, and congratulated myself on my wisdom in investing in VHS instead of the increasingly dicey Beta format. But that was…1985, I think.

The end of VHS is a little different than past media-format deaths in that it’s pretty obvious that media is on its way out. DVD is wonderful in many ways, but Hollywood is already trying to get us to buy everything we already bought on VHS and DVD all over again in Blu-Ray. (I’ve resisted the siren call so far.) And given how fast things are moving with delivery of video programming over the Internet, Blu-Ray itself feels like a stopgap. Ten years from now, a Blu-Ray disc will look almost as archaic as a vinyl LP does now–and I’m not so sure that it won’t be more like four or five years. Maybe even less.

In many ways I’ll miss the comforting notion that content I’ve bought resides on platters or cassettes that I have control over…although copy protection has already removed much of that benefit. But I won’t miss it too much. Especially since I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll have some tapes and discs around the house for as long as it’s possible to find devices that will play them.


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17 Comments For This Post

  1. Pete Says:

    Blu-ray actually reminds me much more of laserdiscs in the early Nineties.

  2. Randal Says:

    I had heard on a radio program that the Music Industry was toying with replacing the CD with microSD cards. So albums would come out on Memory Media. I don’t know if this will become a reality but thinking about it why not. You could then take this to the next logical step for Movies. Why keep propagating standards with limited storage capacity and moving parts when Flash memory is always getting cheaper. Putting a DVD’s worth of Features and programming on a SD type card of 8 or 16GB size just makes sense. Then you can play them on your computer or portable media player. You could have DVD/MicroSD players in your Entertainment system. As Memory keeps increasing in size and dropping in price no radical technology needs to be developed to put more on the media AKA Blu-Ray. I haven’t taken the jump to Blu-Ray yet and as long as they keep release on DVD I don’t plan to for some time. But if they were to start releasing on a Flash Memory standard I’d consider jumping to HD as then I wouldn’t feel I was investing in doomed tech.

  3. Dan O Says:

    I too have resisted the urge to buy anything on Blu-ray. I watched a Blu-Ray movie at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and, quite frankly, I didn’t see anything that blew (blu?) me away — unlike the upgrade from VHS to DVD, the difference wasn’t nearly enough to make me want to spend the $$$ for buying new titles or replacing ones I already own.

    When we moved in 2004 I never bothered to hook up my VCR and since have taken all of them to the electronics recycling depot, despite the fact I have a lot of content on VHS.

  4. Aktariel Says:

    Hrm. Out of curiousity, what software/hardware setup would you use to ‘dub’ VHS to DVD?

    An oh yeah, I sort of moved away even from DVD’s in the past few years… I left my collection with friends after making an electronic copy. Storage is cheap. And portable. I can fit untold numbers of DVD’s (500-700, depending on rip quality) on a TB external, that takes up exactly as much space as two, count them, two, DVD cases.

  5. sculptor Says:

    Some of use knew the DVD was not the final media for HD therefore we waited and purchased relatively few of them. In my first month of owning a Blu-ray player I have purchased discs more discs than in five years of owning a DVD player.

  6. Rod Says:

    Maybe some kind of HD3D format will be the next Blu-Ray killer in the near future.

  7. michaelp Says:

    So, now you are sure?

    “Some of use knew the DVD was not the final media… In my first month of owning a Blu-ray player I have purchased discs more discs than in five years of owning a DVD player.”

  8. Greg Holden Says:

    Beta was the best!!! Not dicey pal. It was used for years in TV broadcasting. Too bad Sony dropped the ball on that one. For collecting and editing video it was the best of the two formats. I’ve transferred all my beta collection onto DVD now; it was fun watching the material again. Some I wondered why I botherered, most is great stuff.

  9. william wise Says:

    you say you can dub old vhs tapes and burn to dvd
    interesting just how do you do that? i have old movies
    that i would like to copy to dvd and most are copy

  10. william wise Says:

    need more info

  11. Michael Says:

    Blu Ray is safe for a long time. The reasons:

    – Most be prefer a tangible item that they can re-sell should they wish to do so. How much would you get for a ‘downloaded’ movie.
    – Blu ray capacity is at 50gb, but much larger 200gb discs are already being considered.
    – PS3 and some high end players have internet connection to allow BD live content via streaming and system software of the player can be updated.
    – Finally… the next big jump is 3D in the home. Blu Ray makers Sony have already agreed to support this new format. PS3 will be able to have a Bios update to allow for 3D games and movies. (new higher frame rate TV’s still required though)

    Personally, I’m just buying new films in Blu Ray. My PS3 upscales my existing DVD collection into HD… why replace them?

  12. Kirk Says:

    I don’t think Blu ray will catch on. It’s dead Jim! For those who want something tangible, the vast majority say that DVD unscaled is good enough. The rest of us don’t want to have to get off the couch to put something tangible in the player.

  13. Jeff Says:

    Steve Jobs got it right “Blu-ray is a DRM bag of hurt.”

  14. Jay Says:

    VHS to DVD: ION (the same people that make a USB turntable) make a VHS player that hooks directly to USB. I don’t have one myself so I can’t tell you how well it works. As for Blu-Ray: players are too damn expensive for most also the discs are ridiculously priced. Plus a lot of old classics are not available. So I’ll stick with VHS, DVD and streaming movies. At least until BR players and discs get cheap (under $100 and less than $10).

  15. Marc Says:

    People like a physical format. A CD bought in 1986 still works in a CD player bought today (although admittedly it would sound bad, since early CDs were copied directly from a vynal course not from original master tracks, believe it or not!)

    It’s too easy to loose/delete downloaded files. DRM means they might not be playable in the future (remember Play For Sure?). No DRM means more casual copying amongst friends and family (forget file sharing networks, they will always attract a certain demographic – it’s the ease and seemingly innocent action of copying a file that the industry see as dangerous).

    So I myself always buy a physical format, although for some reason when it comes to software I don’t mind buying a download online.

  16. Patrick James Maynard Says:

    Blue Ray is dumb. I like a dvd and tape for rec ord. I cant record on my blue ray. Too much giggobites for the money.

  17. shahadin Says:

    The difference in picture quality between Blu-ray and standard-definition DVD was very obvious. But the difference is accentuated when you get the chance to flip back and forth between the two. Just as many owners of rear-projection DLP sets don’t notice that their picture is getting dimmer over time, many owners of standard-definition DVD players will be perfectly happy with the picture quality, and won’t notice what they’re missing, unless they have something better, such as Blu-ray, with which to compare it.