End of an era as Japan to stop making VCR machines after 40 years

22 Jul 2016

Reeling in the years – Japan will stop making VCR machines after a glorious 40 years of entertaining billions of people

After more than 40 years, the last video cassette recorder (VCR) will be produced in Japan, ending an era that shaped our modern age.

It emerged this week that Japanese consumer electronics company Funai Electric, which had been producing VHS players for 33 years, will cease production of the machines at the end of the month.

Sales, primarily in China and North America, plummeted to 750,000 units per year from a peak of 15m.

Future Human

Not only that, but Funai had been struggling to find parts.

VCRs were first produced in the 1970s, and a standards war broke out between Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS.

VHS won out because it was cheaper and provided at least two hours of recording time over Betamax, which provided just one hour. However, the legend endures that the battle was really won when the influential porn industry got behind VHS.

Digital killed the video star

The demise of VHS began when digital versatile discs (DVDs) entered the fray in the mid-90s. The DVD standard was co-developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic.

12 years ago, electronics retailer Dixons phased out the sale of VCRs due to the popularity of DVDs.

But, while some vintage technologies like vinyl have enjoyed a renaissance, the death knell for VHS was compounded by the advent of Blu-ray HD DVDs and, now, hard disk-based personal video recorders.

In fact, the rise of streaming video over the internet and the ability to record instantaneously to hard disk is an existential threat to Blu-ray DVDs.

However, novel uses for Blu-ray DVDs have been discovered by Facebook, no less, which is experimenting with them as a form of storage within its data centres.

Antique VCR image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years