Remember the days of the 80s and early 90s when our favorite stop in the local market was the “Video Library” which managed to delight us every time we went. The era that was ruled and dominated by a gadget loved by all, old and young – the VCR or more commonly the VCR.
The 1980s were a time when cable television was far from reaching India in any form. It was a time when only one technology had to shine – the VCR. As it happened, people had no choice at all to watch programs on TV as the only channel available was Doordarshan (more popularly DD) and later DD Metro, which actually seemed like a big bonus! It just seemed like a perfect setting for something like a VCR to make its presence felt and counted.
The VCR opened up a whole new world of entertainment for the Indian people that was unknown before that. From simply watching the news or documentaries sprinkled with a sprinkle of weekly soap operas, the common man now had the luxury of enjoying movies in the comfort of his bedroom – from old classics to the latest Bollywood movies.
VCRs used removable video cassettes (video tapes) that used magnetic tapes to record videos on them. This meant that not only could you watch prerecorded tapes for movies, but you could also record shows and stream from TV that could be played later! It was pure magic !!! Of course, there was a cheaper variant of the VCR which we called the VCP – Video Cassette Player – which could only play the tape but not record.
The advent of VCRs in India gave the business a perfect opportunity in the form of “video libraries” to grow! Each local market could boast of at least 2-3 libraries, all of which could survive comfortably despite the competition, as demand far exceeded supply. I still remember our own “Micky Video Library” and the “Lords” library which were hot spots at that time, the first being ironically located in a small narrow alley was just a very small room with a collection. of a hundred videos. The latter was a much more dignified place with a much larger collection of Hindi and English films and an air-conditioned shop to display! But to be honest, that didn’t matter, because what was important was to get this latest version at the earliest opportunity – damn it if it got hacked or you had to fork out a few extra bucks!
The first VCRs were top loading models where you insert the cassette into a slot that came out of the top of the VCR by pressing the “Eject” button. It was then followed by the sleeker and improved versions of the front-loading VCRs, which gave them a more attractive and modern feel, not to mention the constantly improved features being added. One of those features I remember was the availability of a “timer” where you could actually set the time the VCR would start recording!
It’s not just video libraries that have flourished. VCRs have provided a remarkable opportunity for smaller technicians and engineers with so many of these “video repair” shops springing up. The VCR worked with a rotating “head” with a small spindle that read the magnetic tape on the cassette. As you might expect, with dust and physical contact, you would invariably be faced with a situation where your “head” would get dirty and you would either need a “head cleaner” sprayed on to clean it, or in extreme cases, you had to bring it to one of those repair shops.
VCRs also ushered in an era of many different and new forms of entertainment revolving around television. In addition to films, they also opened the doors to Pakistani plays that are still remembered to this day. He brought into our homes adorable characters from plays such as Dhoop Kinare and Tanhaiyan who have become a part of our lives and live with us even today. And then there were these “Film Magazines”. I’m not talking about the Fimfares or the Star Dusts. VCRs introduced the concept of video magazines such as “Leheren” which has become a household name. They were basically about an hour long shows that gave you the news of the Hindi film industry – something that today’s channels are chock full of and has now become something so taken for granted! Back then, such video magazines were your only resource for getting live clips of the lives of movie stars or to watch a movie set! It was so exciting before!
One thing most reminiscent of those days was the quality of the video you could watch – which was in common parlance called “the impression” of the tape. You must have flipped a video so many times because the “impression” was so bad! So unlike today’s CDs and DVDs where there is no issue with the quality you can watch. But somehow, remembering it today, someone somewhere in their heart wishes for those little gashes that today’s too-perfect world has totally eliminated 🙁
And how can you forget that “Counter” that you had on VCRs at the time. It was a small three-digit counter with rotating dials that displayed numbers from 0 to 9 on each dial to represent the length of the video that had been played 🙂 From 000 it went up to 999 and was a such a simple and remarkable display of how a small basic concept could be used with such relevance! It was then replaced by a digital counter with the introduction of more advanced and improved VCRs that offered a digital display. Again, this is one of those things that makes you wonder – do we really need all of this advancement! Why did we forget to keep it simple 🙁
How can anyone ever forget that sound of a “Rewinding” videotape and that distinct “thump” that it stopped with or when you pressed that “Stop” button! My heart goes out to those times: oops: it’s really such a high to relive those times from the past. I remember how summer vacation meant so many movies on the VCR, daily visits to the video library – which had even started home delivery and phone services – some even going so far as to provide a printed list of the movies that I had to offer. ‘they had in their store! I even remember as kids we used to rent an extra VCR for a few days because you could interconnect them with your VCR with a cable and make copies of the tapes. Come to think of it now, how could I go to so much trouble recording a tape! But then, that was the magic of that time.
You just have to think – why does tech have such a crab mentality where it has to pull someone down in order to climb 🙁 Why does every new tech have to kill its predecessor. Why the old one. and the new can’t Why can’t we have the old with the new I’m just grateful and feel privileged to have experienced and used these winners from the past.
Thank you for participating, see you next week, same day, same time with another pick from the past in The Lost Technology …