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VHS Refuses to Die

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I’m not sure, but I believe the last videocassette I bought was Air Force One, a woefully underrated classic during which Harrison Ford defeats Russian-accented terrorists and saves his family aboard the eponymous plane. I think I was around 10.

After that, along with the rest of America, I moved on to DVDs and then gave up on DVDs in favor of iTunes (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX). Over the weekend, I saw several of the discs abandoned in front of peoples’ homes, in the space usually reserved for bedbug furniture.

Except, apparently, they’re back. And by they I don’t mean DVDs. I mean videotapes.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the ongoing popularity of the VCR in certain city communities. Thanks to a combination of nostalgia and an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude, videotape rentals still play a large role in some immigrant neighborhoods.

The Times quotes a number of video store owners, including one who has now packed around 40,000 cassettes into his shop. He has attempted to sell off some of his stock, and to give it to the library, but has had limited success.

Owners say that their customers simply prefer to use a VCR, and continue to rent tapes -- at prices as low as $1 a week -- to all comers. It’s almost like the past 15 years didn’t happen.

On their end, customers give a variety of reasons for their format loyalty. One claims that while she owns a DVD player, she can’t get it to work. Some may believe that tapes are a more durable and higher quality format.

It’s kind of nice to see the VCR clinging to life, instead of going the way of Betamax or the Laserdisc (both of which can still be purchased on eBay (EBAY), if you’re interested).

Of course, it seems unlikely that the VCR will undergo the same sort of hipster renaissance as the typewriter. Then again, stranger things have happened, and, anyways, it’s good to know that all our old, discarded tapes have found a home.
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