This month the last VCR to be manufactured will roll off the assembly lines at a Funai Electric factory in Japan and will be sold, somewhere in the world, under the brand name Sanyo. Last year Funai sold only 750,000 VCRs, just a tiny fraction of the 15 million units it sold annually back when VCRs were selling like hotcakes and you just couldn’t keep them on the shelves at places like Circuit City.
Our family had a Sanyo VCR at some point — one of about 10 VCRs that we went through over the years — but we haven’t had a functioning VCR in forever. Why would we? With the other options available, from desktop to streaming to Netflix and Hulu and God knows what, who would want to fuss around with a VCR, deal with the tapes, tears and clogs, rent videos, buy videos, and pay late fees? Not us.
Interesting, isn’t it, how quickly technology moves. I remember when we bought our first VCR in the early ’80s — first stupidly choosing the Beta format that promptly was crushed in competition with VHS — and how in the blink of an eye were Blockbuster video stores in every strip mall. But home entertainment was such a fertile market that entrepreneurs, inventors, and visionaries came up with multiple options that turned the once-hot VCR technology into the horse and buggy in only a few short years. Now VCRs are going the way of the dodo, thrown onto the ash heap of history, a technology so antiquated that people can’t even give them away.
Thirty years for an entire industry to bloom, flourish, and die. The world moves awfully fast these days.