VCRs and VHS tapes

12.27.2020

The 80s was a great decade to grow up in. It was in the 80s, I graduated from high school and started college. It was in the 80s that Star Wars Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were released. It was in the 80s, the VCR took over! And because of the VCR, all those great Showa Godzilla movies I saw in the could be rewatched over and over again. Did you have a VCR? Do you know what a VCR is? Before there were streaming services, 4K tvs, blu-rays and DVDs, there was the videocassette recorder, known simply as the VCR. A VCR is an electromechanical device that records analog audio and analog video from broadcast television or other source on a removable, magnetic tape videocassette, and can play back the recording. (Source: Wikipedia)

Growing up in the 70s, we had 8mm cameras and projectors for watching short movies allowing us to relive important events and family memories. TV was a big part of family American life. Watching TV was a family activity. Watching network programs were weekly planned events. With the advent of the VCR, the way we watched TV changed. Our favorite shows, sports events, movies and news could be recorded to tape for viewing at our convenience. With that said, what Godzilla movies I could only record only on tape cassette in the 70s, I was now able to record on VHS tapes in the 80s. VHS, short for Video Home System, is a standard for consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes. Developed by Victor Company of Japan (JVC) in the early 1970s, it was released in Japan on September 9, 1976, and in the United States on August 23, 1977 (Source: Wikipedia). During the 80s, there was a big battle over the market between the two standards VHS and Betamax. VHS would win out and dominate the market. I remember watching Halloween and Alien on Betamax at the house of my friend’s father. But that would be my first and last time watching a Betamax film.

My family’s first VCR was the Panasonic VHS PV-1275 Video Tape Player Recorder (Model HR-S6700U). The VHS tapes were loaded from the top. Channel selection was made with UHF (ultra high frequency) and VHF (very high frequency) dials. And the counter was not digital. As time passed, it would standout as an oddball as more models hit the market. I tried to convince my friends that it was better to have a top-loading VCR. My family surprised my dad with this VCR as a Christmas present. He loved sports, especially football. But he busy Sunday schedule would not permit him to see the games. So the VCR changed all of that. And so I was made the keeper of the VCR with the responsibility of recording the games for my dad. Because of that, I could also get all the Godzilla movies on VHS as I could.

Source: ebay

Godzilla movies were officially released on VHS tape in the U.S. as well as Japan. However, not all films were released and readily available in the U.S. So I collected them when and where I found them. The Heisei films were also released on VHS in the 90s.

A big part of the charm and nostalgia of watching Godzilla movies growing up was seeing the local TV station programming and commercials. How I watched Godzilla movies was a big part of the experience and my memories. What local station and program that featured Godzilla movies are tied to my memories of Godzilla growing up. Here in Philadelphia, we had the local channels 17, 29, 48 and 57. Godzilla movies usually came on Saturday afternoons as part of regular programming featuring monster and horror movies. For example, Channel 28 had Theater Bizarre and Channel 48, Creature Double Feature. For this reason, my personal VHS collection is treasured and has been preserved over four decades. Having those extra programs and commercials set the context of my life and how Godzilla impacted it.

Since the advent of the DVD, the VCR and VHS tapes has faded away. However, they are still available on Amazon.com. Several years ago, I started digitizing portions of my VHS collection. In 2021, my mission is to continue what I started and capture entire tapes. Yesterday, I rediscovered video from my first trip to Japan as I sorted through a stack of tapes. Check out Philly 57’s Bozo’s Fun Day Off Special presentation of Godzilla’s Revenge from the early 90s.

Look for more and longer clips as the weeks and months go by. And experience Godzilla on TV in the 80s and 90s.