The End Of VHS - Funai Closes Down VCR Production

Loading A VHS Tape Into a VCR
Loading A VHS Tape Into a VCR. Getty Images - KLH49 - Collection E+

Say Bye To VHS

The day has finally come. After 41 years, the VHS VCR has arrived at the end of its useful life. Funai, the last remaining company manufacturing VHS VCRs (under both its own and the Emerson, Magnavox, and Sanyo brand names) has announced that production of the once-revolutionary "time-shifting video recording and playback machine" has ended as of July 2016.

Although there are still millions of VHS VCRs in use around the World (it is estimated that 46% of U.S. households have at least one), with sales of devices with the ability to record video onto VHS tapes dropping to only 750,000 Worldwide in 2015, Funai has decided to call it quits.

A Look Back At The History of VHS

The VHS VCR story began in 1971 with JVC. The goal of JVC was to provide an affordable way to both record and play back video content for viewing on TVs that were in use at the time. VHS reached the consumer market in 1976, about a year after Sony's BETAMAX video cassette format. Along the way, there were several other video tape formats, some of which were introduced before VHS and BETA, such as Cartivision, Sanyo V-Cord, and Philips VCR, but all fell by the wayside.

By the mid-1980's, VHS was the dominant home entertainment video format, relegating its direct competitor, BETAMAX, to niche status. As a result, VHS gave rise to both the chain and "mom-and-pop" video rental industry. At its peak, it seemed like there was a video rental store on almost every street corner.

Although a very popular and practical option for recording and watching TV shows and movies as the 90's arrived newer options became available which began the slow decline in the popularity of the VHS VCR.

In terms of video quality, VHS was no match for newer formats, such as DVD, which arrived in 1996, followed in 2006 by Blu-ray Disc. In terms of recording flexibility, the introduction of DVRs, such as TIVO  and cable/satellite set-top boxes, that recorded video on hard drives and provided more record scheduling options, and, more recently, the availability of Smart TVs and internet streaming, decreased the popularity of VHS VCRs further.

Also, with the advent of HDTV (and now 4K Ultra HD), the video quality of VHS recordings just doesn't cut it - especially on today's really large TV screens. Even attempts at increasing the quality of VHS, via S-VHS, and D-VHS, consumers just didn't make the jump to those options with the same enthusiasm as they did with VHS, instead, over time, adopting disc-based and streaming options mentioned above.

Add to the fact that recording restrictions (copy-protection) imposed, even more, limitations on the use the VCR. As a result, its use, for many, was relegated to playing old VHS tapes or using the VCR as a playback device for copying tapes to DVD.

As a playback device for making copies to DVD, the rise of the DVD Recorder/VHS VCR combo enjoyed some popularity, but since about 2010, even that option has become very rare.

The last Hollywood movie credited with a wide release on VHS was A History of Violence (2006).

The VHS VCR's Place In History

Despite its demise, the VHS VCR has definitely earned its place in consumer electronics history.

Before the advent of Cable/Satellite DVRs, Video-on-Demand, Smart TV, and internet streaming, the VHS VCR literally established the foundation for consumers to take control of their TV and movie viewing.

Despite fears from movie studios that VCRs would doom their industry, as VHS VCRs, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and Streaming have each gained a foothold in home entertainment, the opposite has occurred: more people are going to the movies than ever. In its heyday, the VHS VCR was one of the few tools that consumers had to time-shift their favorite shows for more convenient viewing.

After 41 years of availability for consumer use, VHS is being retired to Gadget Heaven, joining such legendary products as the BETAMAX, LaserDisc, 8 Track Tapes, HD-DVD, and  CRT, Rear Projection, and Plasma TVs. Interestingly, one old legendary product, the vinyl record, has actually enjoyed a resurgence.

Despite its demise, the VHS VCR should be duly credited with being a big factor in the development of home theater; a job well done....

What Happens Now

If you have a lot of VHS tapes, and you want to preserve some or all of them, and haven't gotten started, time is of the essence, especially since new replacement VCRs, including DVD/VCR combos, will no longer be available going forward.

However, if you are still looking for a device that will record and play VHS tapes, check some remaining products that "may" still be available new (as long as stock remains), or used, via the following listings:

DVD Recorder/VHS VCR Combinations

DVD Player/VHS VCR Combinations

Also, to get you started in the VHS-to-DVD conversion process, refer to my article: Copying VHS to DVD - What You Need To Know

As for how long blank VHS tapes will be available - there is no hard information on that aspect so far, but as long as there are a large number VHS VCRs in use, blank VHS tapes should be available for some time. Using BETA as a comparison, even though the last BETAMAX VCRs were discontinued in 2002, blank BETA tapes were available on a limited basis until early 2016.

A final note of Trivia:

So, what do the letters VHS actually stand for? For consumers, VHS stands for Video Home System.

For engineers, VHS stands for Vertical Helical ​Scanning, which is the technology that VHS VCRs use for recording and playback.