So Long VCR, Long Live the Content

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So Long VCR, Long Live the Content

A usual afternoon. As Zoya was arranging her collection of movies and music, she suddenly laid her hands on an old box. Curious, she ripped the box open and was instantly transported to her childhood – when living room was ruled by bulky colored television sets with few channels and programs till midnight.

One of those days, Zoya fondly remembers, her excitement doubled when her dad brought home a new system. Video Home System (VHS) – he called it. Next Sunday they had a family get-together. After lunch, the whole family assembled in the living room while her dad inserted a video cassette recorder (VCR) into the system. The whole family watched in amazement as The Sound of Music came to life on television screen. Soon, it became a routine. Every Sunday, the living room was transformed to a movie theater and afternoons were spent together watching movies.

Couple of  years later, when Zoya graduated to high school and then to college, she got permission to rent VCRs from a neighborhood video parlor. A parlor that had film posters pasted all over its walls and the owner always managed to suggest the recent VCR she could rent. Watching movies with friends meant calling them over at home, renting the latest VCRs while mom had endless supply of chai and snacks.

Much later, one day her cousin brought home a DVD player. Though she was still a regular customer at the neighborhood video parlor, she realized latest movies came in CDs and DVDs. The parlor also filled its racks with CDs and DVDs, and rented out VCRs only when someone specifically asked for it.

Nostalgia gripped Zoya. How time flies! From VCRs to DVDs, and now to mobile. As she ransacked through the old box  to find her favorite VCR, she realized the VHS is lying discarded somewhere in the storeroom. With video-on-demand and Internet television, she never felt the need to get it repaired to watch her childhood favorites. Whatever she wants to watch is only a search and a click away.

Searching through the contents of the box, Zoya discovered the video tapes with recordings of her childhood memories, including her first birthday party. Dusting them, she realized some of these recordings might not be in a condition to play.  As she Googled how to restore old VCRs, she realized that VCR-manufacturer Funai Electronic have stopped manufacturing VCRs, which means restoring the contents of these recordings will be an uphill task.

Which made Zoya wonder, since the time VCR was introduced in 1970s with movies like M*A*S*H, Patton, and The Sound of Music available on tapes costing around $70, there has been large amounts of content that has been produced and stored in this format. And with VCR no longer commercially available, what will happen to those content?

Zoya read about content digitization somewhere before, but began to realize the value of it only now. With new technologies coming every day, content owners need to digitize the existing content and store them in reusable format to prevent any losses. Otherwise, as happened with her childhood recordings, as formats became archaic and content old, a generation of valuable content will become history.