For the youngsters out there, please allow me to refresh your memory on the definition of VHS. It refers to Home Video System or for the old techno geeks, Vertical Helical Scan. Invented by Panasonic, it used a rotating head on a 45 degree angle to play the tape. That’s if everything went well. Often, upon inserting the clunky plastic case in the slot and expecting a movie, strange squeals and clunks were heard meaning your favorite video had just been devoured by the invisible monster living inside.

Still, the system worked reasonably well with the exception of the programming which could be accomplished only by those with a direct family linage to Albert Einstein.  And if you were fortunate enough to own a video camera, you could make marathon recordings of your kids opening Christmas presents lasting up to six fun filled hours. Now that’s entertainment!

Then along came DVD’s commonly known as Digital Video Disks, more correctly Digital Versatile Disks although the official name never caught on with the advertising industry.


The DVD was kind of spectacular, eye-popping color and a clarity never before seen on a home entertainment system. Smaller, lighter, easy to load, with no more hidden monsters, and except for occasional problems when some of us tried to use them for beer coasters, pretty much trouble free. Well, maybe a little problem with scratches now and then. There was that.

But what to do with our old VHS tapes? Not a problem. Soon the market was flooded with dual machines, VHS plus a DVD player all in the same housing. What an idea! And up until one fateful day last week, the Missus was perfectly content with that wonderful electronic arrangement and life was good… until the tape monster returned.  And he was hungry.

Once plentiful, the pickin’s for replacement dual players was slim. Amazon had only a couple of new ones, many used, and nearly all featured the added benefit of a DVD recorder. Recorder? It was an AHA moment. Record the VHS tapes to a disk and free up a little space. Wonderful!

 I ask the Missus. “About how many tapes do you have, ten…twenty?” She led me to the entertainment cabinet and  threw open the doors, pulled the shelves, exposed the nooks and  crannies and cubby holes. This is where the Oh My God part of the story comes in. There were tapes everywhere, hundreds, maybe thousands. There was Spencer Tracy (one of her favorites), as well as Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Jane Wyman, Cary Grant, a video of a Tom Jones concert, and several  six-hour tapes of the kids opening Christmas presents… just to name a few. Clearly, by dubbing the tapes to DVD, I could free up somewhere around two thousand square feet. I went to Amazon, picked a Toshiba model, and clicked Buy Now.

Two day later, I fire it up and check it out, anxious to get started. There was a slight problem. The quality of the VHS playback was worse than the old machine before the return of the tape monster. I’m sure there was a technical reason for this, different recording heads? Who knows? Bottom line, it looked crappy. The people were fuzzy and any text was practically unreadable. Recording this garbage to a DVD was pointless. It was then I remembered an old VHS player gathering dust in the attic, the patent by Thomas Edison I think.

The TE edition not only still played, but looked better than the Mr. Toshiba model. The old dual model tape eater was rescued, resuscitated, and the DVD player put back to work.  As expected, there was no miracle and the Vertical Helical Scan could not be resurrected.

Now, with two boxes instead of one, I seem to be going in the wrong technical direction and free space is shrinking once again. No matter, the house hates a vacuum, always has.






Published in: on August 25, 2014 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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