The VCR: The DVD Player of the Early 1980’s
The rate at which technology advances, even by today’s standards, continues to amaze and astonish people. Even the simplest of daily tasks are influenced and molded by the increasingly original inventions that continue to explode into the public’s eye. One’s everyday life is constantly updated, reinvented, and (if you will) reprogrammed in order to adapt to the new ways of technology. Yet this phenomenon is not unique to this decade alone. As modern and as fast-paced as things may seem now, people in 1984 were going through very similar circumstances. The invention of the VCR was quickly becoming an obviously important product, while advertisers, media executives, and the average consumer were all trying to determine how to interpret this invention.
Although the VCR was first released to the public in 1974, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that the public began catching on to this new invention. Still, the VCR was the most quickly adopted device of its time. In just three years, the sales of VCR’s jumped from 1.3 million units in 1981 to nearly 8 million units in 1984. The popularity of the household device was quite obvious, but the success of the VCR did not come so easily. Three years earlier, in October of 1981, after some struggle, the US court finally ruled that the home taping of broadcast signals was not an infringement. After that, the VCR quickly became a popular household device across the country (Winston 126-129). “The most common use of the VCR’s is to record TV programs fro viewing at a later date” (“VCR’s” 42). This so called “time shifting” was the foundation for the VCR’s success. Aside from its obvious TV connection, the VCR also provided a whole new way for consumers to access films. Home video rentals now allowed patrons to enjoy the movies in the comfort of their own living room. “Rentals, driven by popular theatrical releases, accounted for 80% of the home video market…while sales, also dominated by popular films, such as Paramount’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ accounted for the remaining 20%” (Broadcasting 43). With the increase in demand for VCR’s, the price for consumers has gone down significantly. While the average price of a VCR was $1,200 in 1978, it dropped to around $500 in 1984. The necessary component of the VCR, the VHS cassette tape, was priced anywhere between $60 and $80 (“VCR’s” 43). The VCR was an obvious advance for the film industry, but how would the world of cable and broadcasting react to such an invention? There arose VCR enthusiasts, skeptics, and (as always) undecided as the VCR’s growth become quite apparent.
Although the benefits of a VCR are apparent to today’s society, the device had its opponents in 1984. Advertisers saw the VCR as a threat to their industry due to the capability of commercial “zapping”. Because programs were able to be recorded, commercials were capable of being edited or deleted (zapped). While...