The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
VCR dies, mourned by Asian friends
- Digital age kills the device that revolutionised home entertainment

London, Nov. 22: The VCR is dead, long live the DVD, one of Britain's biggest electronics chains, Dixons, announced today.

In an obituary notice, headed 'RIP VCR', the group said today: 'Figures released by Dixons show that the British love affair with the video has finally come to an end.'

But Dixons has overlooked the Bollywood market in Britain, where a whole generation of Asian immigrants, many now elderly, have relied on easy-to-operate VCRs to watch and rewatch their favourite Hindi films.

Raju Ghaghada, who, with his brothers, runs a typical Indian family store, Rajdeep Video, in Tooting, south London, told The Telegraph: 'What is going to happen to Asians who love the VCR' Eighty per cent of my customers prefer videos.'

However, Dixons has resolved that 'it will soon be pressing the stop button on sales of video recorders, ending a 26-year love affair with a gadget that has delivered the most radical change in home entertainment since the invention of the television.'

The announcement 'follows a boom in the popularity of newer rival DVD technology and a corresponding fall in sales of Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs). VCRs are expected to disappear from Dixons' shelves before Christmas'.

John Mewett, marketing director at Dixons, said today: 'We're saying goodbye today to one of the most important products in the history of consumer technology. The video recorder has been with us for a generation ' and many of us have grown up with the joys ' and occasional frustrations ' of tape-based recording. We are now entering the digital age and the new DVD technology available represents a step change in picture quality and convenience.'

Dixons says demand for VCRs has fallen dramatically since the mid-90s , while sales of DVD players have grown seven-fold in the last five years. Sales of DVD players at Dixons are currently outstripping that of VCRs by '40 to 1'.

It adds that 'with newer innovations like portable and recordable DVD and hard disk drive recording catching the public's imagination, Dixons has decided to focus on the next generation of home entertainment systems, bringing an end to a generation of rewinding and ejecting'.

The VCR first came to public prominence during the mid-1970s, when two companies were perfecting non-compatible video cassette formats. Sony had created its Betamax system and JVC had its Video Home System (VHS).

During the 1980s, a bitter battle ensued between the two to become the dominant format. With videotapes that offered far longer running time, a cheaper design and a greater choice of pre-recorded tapes, JVC's VHS won the battle and, by 1985, had become the standard for VCRs.

In 1988, Sony finally conceded and stopped making Betamax machines for the UK and started production of its own VHS recorders.

The first VCR to go on sale at Dixons was the HR-3300EK, a piano key-operated top-loader with a red LED digital clock/timer. It hit the shelves in 1978 (weighing in at more than 13 pounds) and cost '798.75 ' which is '2,021 in today's money, enough to buy 40 VCRs now.

At the time, a 30-minute videotape would have set customers back by the equivalent of '20. Dixons has sold millions of VCRs in the last 26 years with demand for the technology hitting a peak in 1993.

Between 1980 and 1990, according to today's statistics, the worldwide market for VCRs went from 10 to 200 million units and by 2002 almost 90 per cent of UK households owned one. It had been just 17 years since the Betamax had been introduced. By contrast, it had taken 25 years for 100 million TV sets to be sold.

When the VCR first appeared, it was feared that cinema halls which showed mainly Indian movies would be put out of business. For a while, many of these halls did indeed close but in the past decade or so, Indian cinema halls and the VCR have learnt to co-exist happily.

If Dixons stops selling VCRs, it is likely other chains will follow suit and it will become even harder for those who have them to get them repaired. As it is, Britain, unlike India, does not have a repair culture. There is also the worry that although the latest Indian films are now available on DVD, the older classics are in VHS format ' and no one is sure how expensive or easy it will be to covert them to DVD.

Although Indians are the first to embrace 'what's the latest, yaar'' at his shop in South London, Ghaghada said that old people in general, British and Indian, prefer VCRs. 'DVDs have too many buttons and this confuses them.'

He hopes and believes there is life yet in the VCR. 'People said the CD would phase out the audio cassette. But people still listen to audio cassettes.'

Email This Page