Remember when VCRs were the thing in home entertainment?
I was at a friend’s house the first time I ever saw a VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). I did not know about the tape. All I saw was that my friend could push one button on the remote and make the characters go backwards, and push another button to make them go forwards, into the future. I thought that the device allowed you to see shows before they were aired. I felt like a time traveler.
On the ride home from my friend’s that night I imagined that I had a “VCR” and a remote. I imagined holding in the fast-forward button and watching shows that were years away. I wondered why my friend had not done this. Perhaps he was not that bright.
When I learned that the “fast-forward” was just through a tape of shows that already aired, I was disappointed. How were you supposed to know ahead of time what you wanted to watch, and then set up the VCR to tape it? We were not exactly the first family on the block to get a VCR.
But technology has a way of worming its way into our homes. On the day – oh triumphant day – that we got a VCR, we went to the video store and rented Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I had seen it in the movie theater but wanted to see it again. I think we rented that movie the second time we went to the video rental store, too.
The first thing I ever planned to tape was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I arranged for my father to drive me to PC Richards for a blank VHS cassette. On the way home he said to me, “Mark, what you about to do tonight is illegal.” I wanted to tell him that he was wrong because everyone taped things off television. But he would not have understood.
When I got home I unwrapped the tape, pushed it in, and pressed record. What a luxury it was to be able to get up during the movie and go into the kitchen for something to eat and not worry about missing something because it was being taped. For the first time in my life I was thankful for being born in the 20th Century.
The instant the movie ended I rewinded the tape. And when I pressed play, I saw that all I had taped was snow.