Believe it or not, before the sleek, compact designs of the DVD and Blu-ray, there existed old-school VHS tapes, the clunky beginnings of home cinema. A precursor to today's "Netflix and chill," there was "rewind and Blockbuster," which required much more effort for a much simpler, clunkier reward. When it comes to VHS tape nostalgia, few people really recall the best things about VHS tapes, largely because there weren't many to begin with. Many memories from VHS tapes lie in the minds of millennials and the preceding generations, probably about the loud noises they made and their ability to jam themselves in the VHS player at a moment's notice.
Given the modern era's need for nostalgia, one can fondly recall some of the best things about VHS tapes. For one thing, funny VHS covers made a Blockbuster visit worth the trip, and Disney's "vaulted" VHS classics felt classier than anything else in your childhood. And one cannot deny the satisfaction of taping your favorite movie to keep for yourself, even if it was littered with commercials. In the end, you're probably thankful for less clutter and more variety that comes with streaming services. But then again, nothing compares to nostalgia.
Ugh! Few things felt more frustrating about VCRs than putting in a movie only to discover the person before failed to rewind it. As a preemptive measure, video stores placed stickers on each tape that read "Be Kind, Rewind," and many would even fine you if you returned a video that was not rewound. By the late '80s, external rewinders came into existence to speed things up. Some of these took fanciful shapes that suggested speed, such as racecars and wildcats. The worst part was waiting, listening to the whirring magnetic tape as it spun round and round. No matter how fast it went, it never went as fast as a DVD's ability to "skip" along.
What was that wonderful smell, anyway? If Blockbuster bottled it, it would smell a little like fresh plastic VHS cases and buttery popcorn. When it hit your nostrils, you instantly amped up with the knowledge that you were about to pick up the latest releases! You could see tapes peeking from behind the cardboard display placed on every store shelf. What a thrill!
But then there were the other days, when long lines of impatient, angry people already snagged all the copies of Titanic. The smell of frustration, jealousy, and sweat masked that familiar Blockbuster odor, and you wound up picking some stupid movie that nobody wanted just to watch something that weekend.
So you popped in the VHS, kicked back on the sofa with your remote, and waited for the show to begin. But suddenly, only seconds into the video, static-y strands of "tracking" obscured the picture on the screen. Though some VCR remotes had tracking adjustment buttons, those that did not forced everyone else to get up from the couch, walk to the VCR, lean over, and fiddled with the tracking button until the picture improved. Sadly, one might need to make repeat visits to fix the stupid tracking.
Does your heart beat just a little bit faster when you see a classic Disney animated film in its shiny white VHS case? Well, it certainly used to. You remember the excitement when one of your favorite Disney movies burst forth from the dreaded "Disney Vault," a highly successful sales ploy from the '80s and '90s. In your hands, these cases felt like the latest iPhone, a high-tech, sleekly designed form of entertainment.
Whatever became of those sweet cases? Ask your mom, she still has them.