In case you haven’t heard the news, VHS is dead. The venerable videotape medium took its final breaths this week when the Victor Corporation of Japan announced that it is to immediately cease production of VHS videotape recorders.
Victor, better known as JVC, was the last company to produce the machines, bringing to an end the home videotape era after three decades and some 900 million video units worldwide. Victor will continue to produce hybrid VHS-DVD models for a while, but that will be it.
Now that VHS is joining reel-to-reel, Beta videotapes and eight-tracks on the trash heap, anyone with their personal histories recorded in the format would be well-advised to have them transferred to the current standard of digital DVD. This will ensure that interested parties will be able to watch them, at least for awhile.
One of the consequences of this fast-moving technical age is that formats arrive, get hot for awhile, then disappear, forcing people to adjust on the fly. My personal music collection still includes 78 rpm shellac records, 45 and LP records made of vinyl, audiocassettes, CDs, my compuer’s hard drive and an iPod. In the past, I’ve also used reels of acetate and mylar audiotape and eight-tracks. Who knows what is next?
As we writers often smugly point out, books have not been affected as much by technical advances. Publishing techniques change and the digital model for the written word is still evolving, but it’s a pretty good bet that a book produced today will be available in its original form for many generations to come.
I think the best way to preserve a family history these days is a hybrid – a book that gives the depth and accessibility to a family’s stories as only a book can, plus a professionally shot and edited video of people sharing those stories in their own voices. I’ve teamed up with That Video Guy (aka John Windschitl) to offer such a package in Central Iowa. By combining our research and interviewing, we’re able to cut the cost of doing the projects separately.
Whatever you do, don’t let your family history fall victim to these format changes.
Flickr photo courtesy of michael.newman..