Back in the day, a number of shows that came on television were recorded with a VCR. One of those shows was New York Undercover. It came on Thursday nights on Fox at 8 P.M., right after Martin and Living Single, two other shows on prime-time television that occupied the two-hour Thursday night spot on FOX. Back then, there was no such thing as a DVR. If there was a desire to capture a show on television, the only way to do so was with a VCR. Even with that, recording with a VCR had limitations with one being that videotapes could only hold 6 hours of material.
With 2 hours of a Thursday night held hostage, along with at least 1-2 hours of wrestling every Monday night, it's plain to see how many life decisions had to be made in regard to what would be recorded and what would not. When it came time to finally decide what to record, New York Undercover and the World Wrestling Federation won out, and Martin and Living Single were watched in real time because, let’s be for real, there was no way missing any of those shows would happen, no matter what other responsibilities were had as a child creeping into early teenage years.
Back in those days, there were certain items that absolutely had to work in the house, and a VCR was right at the top of the list. If the VCR happened to eat a tape, then a trip to K-Mart to get the VCR head cleaner was in order. Spending money on a VCR head cleaner usually meant giving up money that would be spent on something else, especially since VCR head cleaners ran about $10 or so. It likely meant passing on food which was totally fine. Besides, the odds of two working adults letting their only son starve were quite low, but if the starvation was in an effort to keep the VCR working, then the VCR would have to go. Therefore, other elements which typically brought a budding teenager joy would move around to make sure that never became an issue.
Beyond the Thursday night lineups on Fox and Monday nights of the WWF, recording damn near every basketball game that came on TV was the way to go. Friends and family didn’t understand the logic, especially since the games were often watched in real time only to go back to be watched again. In those days, life consisted of school, playing outside with friends, writing, reading, and watching tapes on the VCR. Nothing changed with the progression from middle school to high school, and when it was time to go to college, the VCR came as well. The thought never occurred that a potential roommate would have an issue with the VCR, because it was so much a part of life that there was nothing to think about. Just as people took shoes, clothes, draws, toothpaste, and a toothbrush with them to start their new lives, the VCR came to college as well.
By the time 2000-2001 came around, three or four VCRs had come and gone since the previous ones were worn down to the bone. The formula was simple: Buy a VCR, record shows and games, and use the VCR as long as humanly possible. If the VCR ate videotapes, go to the store and get the head cleaner to fix it. If it continued to eat tapes, take the VCR apart and try to fix it. When neither of those techniques worked, the VCR was thrown in the trash, and another one was copped. Record, rinse and repeat. The logic was simple enough.
Michael Jordan’s second and third NBA championship? They’re on tape. Michael Jordan’s fourth, fifth, and sixth title-clinching games? They’re all on tape. Allen Iverson’s 2001 playoff run? It’s on tape. The Lakers 3-peats? They’re on tape. The Pistons 2004 title run? It’s on tape. The Dallas Mavericks and their run to the NBA Title in 2011? That one is definitely on tape.
The 2001, 2003, and 2005 college basketball national title games? They’re all on tape. Final Four games? On tape. Shawn Michaels against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12 in a 60-minute Ironman Match for the WWF Championship? The Rock against HHH for the Intercontinental Championship at Summerslam 1998? They’re on tape. Danny Up smoking J.C. Williams fiancée in New York Undercover? It’s on tape. Martin transforming into Shaquille Sunflower on Martin? It’s on tape.
It was perfectly normal behavior. When a person found something that had to be kept, what was the best thing to do? Put it on tape, and when the VCR malfunctioned due to overuse or whatever, buy a new one. There wasn’t anything wrong with this logic and, as you can see by some of the events listed, a VCR was used well past college and into early adulthood. It wasn’t until social media when the realization came that using a VCR equated to living in the Stone Age and it was best to adapt.
At the time, some program was on TV, and while plenty of folks were on the timeline tweeting about it, the thought came to tweet about needing to find a videotape to record what was on. Folks on the timeline immediately came for blood and asked who, in 2010, still used a VCR? The answer was simple: I did and took a picture of the VCR as proof. One person asked why not use a DVR instead, and the response, while aggravating to some, was to answer a question with a question. Let’s say an upgrade to a DVR was the way to go, then what would happen with all the tapes reaching from as far back as 20 years ago? Nah, y’all can keep your DVRs, or whatever they are. The VCR worked this long, and there was no way Twitter would dictate how memories on television would be made.
Ironically, it was at the end of the 20th century when the first DVR hit the market. It was around March of 1999 (1), but acquiring a DVR was the furthest thing from the mind of someone who religiously used a VCR. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until around 2013 or 2014 when the DVR was finally adopted in this household and the VCR was finally laid to rest. There are still boxes stuffed with hundreds of videotapes of events over the years, videotapes that eventually will have to transition to the afterlife. It wouldn’t be a surprise if songs like Gangsta Lean, The Crossroads, and It’s So Hard to say Goodbye play through the speakers as the official separation between man and a longtime treasure takes place because, let’s face it, there’s no way all of those tapes are coming to wherever the next destination is. The process of moving sucks as it is, and it’s even more frustrating hauling a bunch of shit that’s not used anymore, no matter how many memories and great times were shared together. Capturing memories with a new device will never be like the stories that went along with capturing them on a VCR, but there comes a time when everyone has to evolve and leave old things behind.