The videocassette recorder that revolutionized home entertainment by allowing TV audiences to capture their favorite shows on tape and watch them at their leisure will die at the end of the month after a decadelong battle with obsolescence.
Known to every child of the '80s and '90s as the VCR, the machine became a fixture under the television sets in households across America, and indeed the world, as a means for watching movies and video of family milestones.
The VCR's demise may come as a shock, mostly because many thought it was already dead. But Japan-based Funai Electronic Co. has continued to manufacture the machines even as several generations of superior entertainment technology have come to market. Now, executives say that a lack of demand and difficulty acquiring parts has persuaded them to cease production at the end of July.
Though the VCR will soon be gone, its legacy cannot be forgotten. Its influence is evident today in the binge-watching and time-shifting habits that have become a norm in home entertainment. TV and film were once by appointment only; stations would air your sitcom at a slated time, and studios would release movies during set windows. You watched when they wanted.
All that has changed. Viewers today increasingly watch TV programs on their own schedule and bulldoze through new episodes back-to-back-to-back in rapid succession. But that phenomenon really began with the rise of VCRs and those black stackable VHS tapes they played.