December 29, 2008; BANGALORE:
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now, for the Video Home System or VHS -- the magnetic tape format that made home movie viewing a reality for so many of us since 1976.
Having won the battle of the tape formats and killed rival Betamax, VHS became the de facto standard for recording movies -- and a VCP (Video Cassette Player) or VCR (Video Cassette Player), was the way millions of Indian homes got their daily or weekly dose of phillums for the family. The video-wallah came on his bicycle, laden with two canvas bags full of tapes -- faded tapes, bleached by constant and careless reuse, but nevertheless entertainment on tap -- till cable TV came.
Now it is time to say a final farewell: No new movie has been released on VHS for some years -- even in the US where unlike India, Blockbuster and other neighbourhood lending stores soldiered on with tapes much longer -- even while we had switched to VCDs.
This week, the last US distributor will stop shipping VHS tapes and about time too.
With distributors like MoserBaer retailing movies in so many Indian languages at the equivalent of 50 US Cents a go on CD and only a little more on DVD, even the rationale to go for pirated stuff is fast vanishing.
So what do you do with your collection of VHS movie goodies. As you might have noticed, VHS tapes need to be aired every now and then. If you have not played them for some months, now would be a good time to check how many of them still play on your VCP or VCR. Chances are some or all have been wiped clean or so faded they are unwatchable. If you do have some tapes in reasonable condition, convert them to DVDs -- fast.
This is not difficult. VHS to MPEG2 converter cards are available. Alternately use analog to digital video conversion software: a Google search will throw up quite a few downloads. Transfer the tape contents using one of these software to your PC or laptop; then burn a CD or DVD using a programme like Nero that comes with your CD or DVD recording drive. You could also connect the VCR to a DVD recorder if you have one... it will create a DVD copy automatically.
Once you have recovered your VHS tapes and converted them to DVD -- throw away tapes (and VCR/ VCP); dispose of them in a ‘green ' way if you can. They have no resale value and it's not getting nostalgic about them-- unless you want to set up a museum of historic recording machines.
VHS is dead. Long live DVD (for now).