Wright to the Point

By Jonathan Wright

Admit it—they’re dated.

When you see a stack of VHS tapes sitting around somewhere, perhaps in a secondhand store, passed over and gathering dust, what impression do they create in your mind?

Without a moment’s hesitation, you know exactly. Certain phrases come to mind: “old,” “antiquated,” “outdated,” “from another era,” and so on.

VHS tapes are reminiscent of the late 1970s and especially the 1980s. At that time, of course, they were the latest thing, the cutting edge of entertainment and educational technology.

I remember using a VCR machine for the first time, at Forsyth County High School in Cumming, Georgia, where I taught in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was perhaps 1982 when I had the privilege of using the machine to show my classes a video of Our Town, the popular play by Thornton Wilder that we had just finished studying.

I remember how unbelievably novel the experience seemed. For the first time ever, I was able to show a movie almost effortlessly, without having to tediously thread film through a leader reel and a bulky, heavy projector with a bulb that threatened to blow at any time.

The convenience was wonderful—just pop in the cartridge and push “play.” It was a surreal experience to say the least.

At the time, however, I could not afford to purchase a VCR for myself. That would come later that decade, after I had moved to Greenbrier County, when a friend was so convinced of its value for me that she gave me some money to apply as a down payment at Aide’s, that time-honored discount store in Fairlea. I put a Quasar VCR on layaway and had it paid off within a month or two.

Having a VCR in my very own home was a dream too good to be true. I could now record anything I wished right off the television set or play a VHS tape anytime I wanted. The possibilities seemed endless. I was beside myself.

Thirty years later, here in the illustrious year of 2013, we now have silver discs called DVDs. Smaller and much thinner, they take up less space, and it’s possible to skip around the contents in just a few seconds—as opposed to the tedious fast-forwarding or rewind drudgery of the VHS tapes.

There’s coming a day, however—and you know it as well as I do—when even DVDs will be considered outdated. I can’t help wondering what will replace them. Whatever they are, I feel sure they’ll be smaller—and maybe nothing in the way of hard copy at all, much they way we look at movies online via various web sites.

Until then, assortments of old VHS tapes and DVDs will continue cluttering the cabinets, drawers, and entertainment centers of countless homes throughout the world, eventually ending up at flea markets, yard sales, eBay—and ultimately landfills.

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