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Japan Hardware

Japan Will Make Its Last-Ever VCR This Month (mentalfloss.com) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us stopped using video cassette recorders a very, very long time ago. By 2008, DVD had officially replaced VHS as the preferred home media format, and the glory days of the 1980s -- when VHS and Betamax battled it out to be the number-one choice for watching and recording movies and television at home -- were very much in the rear-view mirror. So it might surprise you to learn that VCRs are still being manufactured -- at least they were until this month. Funai Electric, the last remaining Japanese company to make the units, has announced that the company will cease production on its VCR units, due to declining sales and difficulty acquiring parts. Their VCRs are made in China and sold in many territories, including North America, under brand names like Sanyo, but last year's figures reported just 750,000 sales worldwide.
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Japan Will Make Its Last-Ever VCR This Month

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  • That's it! Time to buy a Betamax.
    • PFFT! Betamax is old news. I'm banking on HD-DVD.
    • Betamax is gone too. You can still get Betacam...

      • Just checked... Now I'm not so sure. Google is very elusive about giving a direct answer.

      • As of 2016 Sony has discontinued ALL 1/2 inch formats, this includes HDCAM and HDCAM SR which were the HD versions of Betacam (1440x1080 for HDCAM full 1920x1080 for HDCAM SR).

    • Oh, please. It's all about LaserDisc now.
    • RCA has the winner

      Capacitance Electronic Disc
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • Oh yeah, I remember this! Back when LaserDisc was starting to be a thing, RCA was trying to sell that needle-in-groove system for video. I was doing an internship at an engineering company at the time - I remember RCA's system provided a regular source of comedy material amongst the engineers.

        Of course in the end VHS tape (and later, DVD) ended up eating LaserDisc for lunch.

        • Both of them were pretty klugey.

          I have a friend who still has a large collection of laser discs. It's rather fun listening to him come up with new ways to validate his purchases.

        • VHS was never a competitor to LaserDisc. Even super-VHS had terrible video quality compared to LaserDisc, which was for people who would spend extra to have the best picture possible. LaserDisc died when better options came along with DVD, BluRay, and 1080p MKVs. LaserDisc became a low-quality format that could only present 500 lines of vertical resolution, but back in the bad old NTSC days, it was the best option available. It could compete with DVDs because there was no over-compression problem, but i
          • Given that VHS enjoyed wide (and durable) consumer adoption, while LaserDisc struggled to gain even a small foothold in the consumer market - I'd say a more accurate statement would be "LaserDisc was never a competitor to VHS".

  • What (Score:5, Informative)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @02:50PM (#52548717)

    "Japan Will Make Its Last-Ever VCR This Month"
    "Funai Electric, the last remaining Japanese company to make the units, has announced that the company will cease production on its VCR units, due to declining sales and difficulty acquiring parts."
    "Their VCRs are made in China and sold in many territories, including North America, under brand names like Sanyo, but last year's figures reported just 750,000 sales worldwide."

    So China will make its last VCR under contract for a Japanese rebrander.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @02:52PM (#52548727) Journal
    VCRs haven't competed against DVDs for a long time. If you buy a movie, it has come on DVD (or blue-ray) for over a decade.

    The reason people buy VCRs now is to record shows off the TV to watch them later. That's not easy to do on a DVD player. So as DVRs have become more popular, they've replaced the final uses for VCR.
    • I guess the real question is: how long before the last Blu-Ray player is manufactured? I'm betting on 2021. Check this space, if Slashdot still exists.
    • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @03:06PM (#52548841) Journal
      Most people myself included, get a new VCR because the old one is acting wonky and they still have a large library of tapes, much of it old home movies that they haven't had the time or inclination to transfer to digital. As the equipment gets harder to find and the film on the tapes degrades, eventually I will have to force myself to tacked the mammoth task of converting it all to digital
      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @03:15PM (#52548899) Journal
        Get a convertor. Every time you watch a VCR tape, after you are done, set it to convert to DVD (or whatever), and then walk away. Low effort, and the things you watch the most will be converted first.
        • DVD is a bad choice. It's another dead format, and uses crappy old Mpeg 2 compression so the data is at least 10x the size it should be. You can convert and compress to a modern format, and play them from PCs and streaming devices. This also makes backup to sites like DropBox possible.
          • DVD is a format far from dead thanks to the practically free ability for manufacturers to provide support for it. There's no Bluray player on the market that can't also play DVDs right now, and that won't change until Bluray as a format dies too.

            But DVD has a heck of a lot going for it. You can easily play it back on any player unencumbered by codec support. The decoders are available open source, and the tools to encode them are widely available. The same can not be said for any modern format some of which

            • Anectodal evidence, but some stupid smartphone from 2013 can read VP8 fine, at least if it's in a .webm. Make a webm as if it were for youtube and I'm suspecting it's rather well supported on the long term.
              H264 is the obviously easier choice but only in .mp4 container else it fails. Mmm, .3gp can contain H264 too actually. Well I sort of don't like all this crap. But if something can read video from USB, there's good chance it can read H264 mp4.

              • Well I sort of don't like all this crap.

                This is the most truest line in this entire thread. Whatever method is the best there's no denying the entire thing is a clusterf**k

          • and uses crappy old Mpeg 2 compression so the data is at least 10x the size it should be.

            I think you are overestimating modern codecs. H264 is only about twice as space efficient as MPEG-2, for the same quality. The most modern codec we have, H265, has a 20-25 % edge over H264.

            Yes, you can squeeze video to 400-800 kbps if you want, but high quality still takes high bit rates.

        • DVD recorders won't record commercial tapes encoded with macrovision, so it will only work with personal home recordings. Most video capture cards will also reject the video input if it's copy protected with macrovision. There are ways around this, of course, but it requires time, effort, and money to do so.

          • DVD recorders won't record commercial tapes encoded with macrovision,

            In my experience, Disney tapes are mainly the ones that use macrovision. My experience may or may not be representative.

      • by Jeff Flanagan ( 2981883 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @04:48PM (#52549467)
        We reached that point years ago, and if you have to buy an eBay VCR when yours fails, your conversions will be lower quality than if played on the machine they were recorded on. VHS sucked that way.

        The good news is that Time Base Correctors are inexpensive now, so I was able to fix flagging and color problems caused by playing on a different machine in most cases.

        I had a huge tape collection, 75% of which turned out to be worthless because much better copies of the shows and movies are now available, but I did convert the remaining 25% to MP4 files. A few tapes were completely unplayable because time is very hard on magnetic tape.

        I can't believe anyone would fail to upgrade home movies to a durable format, and just wait for them to degrade into uselessness while planning to convert them someday. That's destroying things via procrastination that should be handed down to your descendants.
      • Most people myself included, get a new VCR because the old one is acting wonky and they still have a large library of tapes, much of it old home movies that they haven't had the time or inclination to transfer to digital. As the equipment gets harder to find and the film on the tapes degrades, eventually I will have to force myself to tacked the mammoth task of converting it all to digital

        I am in this boat right now. My nice old Toshiba VCR bit the dust, and I would like to gain access to my mountain of VCR tapes.

        So my question is: Does this mean that there will not be any more VCR/DVD Combo machines either?

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          While I'm pretty sure there is a warehouse somewhere in the world full of VCR/DVD machines, but since warehouse space is expensive, I'm also pretty sure that they will all be "recycled" long before anyone gets a chance to purchase them...

      • by Rexdude ( 747457 )

        You already paid for the movies once, when you bought them as videotapes. I think you're quite morally if not legally justified in torrenting the movie and saving it as backup. I see it as no different than if you were ripping from a DVD you own, as an alternative to converting from tape, which may not be so good (since it's analog -> digital), plus videotapes are prone to jamming or growing fungus over years of disuse.

    • The real reason they buy VCR now is to watch their old VHS tapes. Some people still have a collection. And doesn't want to buy the DVD or BlueRay or streaming rights.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I recently bought a VHS tape because it was the only fornat the video I wanted was on. And no, it wasn't porn. It was a movie that Disney screwed up when it took over distribution rights.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      VCRs haven't competed against DVDs for a long time. If you buy a movie, it has come on DVD (or blue-ray) for over a decade. The reason people buy VCRs now is to record shows off the TV to watch them later. That's not easy to do on a DVD player. So as DVRs have become more popular, they've replaced the final uses for VCR.

      We've had DVR's for that for a long time now. The VCR is used almost elusively by the security industry because some laggards haven't updated to digital storage. There are a few VCR enthusiasts out there, same as there is for everything but they're very few in number and certainly not enough to sustain a single manufacturing plant.

      • In my experience, DVRs produce DRM'ed recordings, so they are less convenient to archive and may have problems playing on another DVR (in case the original one fails). On the other hand, VHS tapes can be played on any other VHS VCR.

        That being said, I now usually record TV shows straight from the IPTV provider (it helps that I actually am an admin for a couple of them, but I would be able to record from my ISP if I wasn't), so I mainly use my VCR to record some shows that I really want to keep (I record from

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Many years ago I installed a few CCTV systems. Fully digital of course. One of the clients kept some VCRs around too. Not hooked up to anything, just powered on with the clock set. He said that in previous burglaries the crooks had taken the DVR with them, to destroy evidence presumably, so he wanted the VCRs as dummies to be taken instead.

        No idea if it worked or not, but he was always looking in the local paper for used VCRs.

    • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

      DVD Recorders have been around a decade. You can record live TV on a DVD just as easily as you can with a VCR. In fact, I bought a combo VCR and DVD-RW for my father-in-law right around 2005.

    • DVRs don't entirely replace VCRs. The tapes used to record shows on a VCR are portable between VCRs. You can record a show at your home, then lend the tape to one of your co-workers. You can't really do that with a DVR because they're a lot more expensive than a tape, you don't have your DVR while it's on loan (whereas you can just stick a new tape into a VCR), and Hollywood has been trying its damnedest to prevent you from sharing shows in this manner by mandating encryption in DVRs and broadcast standa
    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      VCRs haven't competed against DVDs for a long time. If you buy a movie, it has come on DVD (or blue-ray) for over a decade.

      Well, you'd certainly think so. And in terms of competing, you're right. But amazingly, you can still buy movies [amazon.com] in VHS format.

    • VCRs haven't competed against DVDs for a long time. If you buy a movie, it has come on DVD (or blue-ray) for over a decade.

      The reason people buy VCRs now is to record shows off the TV to watch them later. That's not easy to do on a DVD player. So as DVRs have become more popular, they've replaced the final uses for VCR.

      There was a brief period (10ish years ago?) that set top DVD recorders were readily available and could be used for time-shifting (like DVRs and VCRs). They also made it easy to digitize VHS home movies. And until PC optical drives started disappearing, you could even take the disc and watch it on your PC.

      Now with Broadcast and cable formats turning to HD, VCRs and set top DVD recorders are fairly useless at timeshifting.

    • That's not easy to do on a DVD player.

      HUH? It was just as easy to do, if not easier, as recording on VCRs.. (BTW, I used 2 VCRs for a long time to be able to either record 2 things at once, or more likely, watch one tape/skip ads while recording something else.. The dual Go-Video ones never seemed worth it though.)

      There were plenty of standalone DVD recorders, and even some combo hard drive/DVD recorders.. I have one of them, the Toshiba XS32. (I still route one of my Tivos through it, though dub to it

      • HUH? It was just as easy to do, if not easier, as recording on VCRs.

        Had to make sure your dvds didn't get fingerprints, even after multiple recordings

  • Who in hell bought these?

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      People who still have a lot of VHS tapes and don't have access to rocket ship internet speeds. I know a few who live in rural farm areas who get by with DSL ~5 miles from the CO and can't download anything. Nor are interested in rebuying stuff they already have on DVD.

      • I can not figure out why you would keep DVD's around rip them once and be done with it. VHS is the same though the hardware to do so has a nominal cost.

    • I imagine two groups of people are still buying them, aside for specialty uses.

      Some people BUY movies, and some of those have hundreds of video tapes they've purchased over the years. For some old movies, they can be replaced with DVD iexpensively, but Disney is an important exception. 50 Disney movies isn't cheap.

      I also know people for whom their primary entertainment is shows they've recorded. They are comfortable with their routine. Current DVRs available for purchase haven't converted all of these peo

      • but Disney is an important exception. 50 Disney movies isn't cheap.

        And Disney VHS cassettes come with DRM, so you can't always convert them to DVD yourself.

        • And Disney VHS cassettes come with DRM, so you can't always convert them to DVD yourself.

          You just need a video "stabilizer" [amazon.com]

        • How do you DRM an Analog Recording?

          All the VHS to DVD converters I have seen you just plug in the Analog Video and Audio out (Yellow, White Red) to a receiver then it converts it to a digital signal.

          • read up on macrovision.

            lots of ways to mess with analog signals and 'drm them'.

            • In the analogue realm there's lots of ways to apply DRM to a signal but all of which require the support from a hardware manufacturer to implement the lockout. There's nothing someone can do to stop you copying a VHS if the recorder ignores macrovision, and most of them do.

              If modern DRM is putting a money in a safe, handing you a key and telling you that you're only allowed to open the safe when you're told to, then old school macrovision is putting money in a safe, leaving the door open, handing you the ke

              • > . There's nothing someone can do to stop you copying a VHS if the recorder ignores macrovision, and most of them do.

                Macrovision was originally developed for VCRs that were ALREADY in use. The VCR doesn't have to support Macrovision. It pulses the off-screen lines very bright, then very low, causing the AGC to adjust the picture brightness in the opposite direction.

                • You're missing my point. The VCR has no say in the matter which makes this DRM scheme the most easily circumvented. You're entirely relying on the receiving equipment to do something with the signal, and surprise surprise most cheap video capture dongles have no problem with this.

                  If you can display it on a TV, you can display it on your computer screen. If you can display it on a computer screen you can capture the MPG stream.

                  DRM in the digital world only concerns itself preventing bit-perfect copies. The a

          • Think old games with "illegal" floppy disk sectors, but this time with some anomalous out of spec bursts on the signal.
            Now, either you gear defeats this old analog stuff, or it is of no consequence given it was intended to make a second VCR in writing mode fail.

            BTW the one converter I saw was not really a converter per se, but a combined VCR and DVD player and burner.
            An old TV tuner PCI card would be cool too : there's usually a composite input, and even if the TV antenna input isn't useful for TV anymore y

        • If you look on the net, you'll find lots of people have been kind enough to do it for you.

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          but Disney is an important exception. 50 Disney movies isn't cheap.

          And Disney VHS cassettes come with DRM, so you can't always convert them to DVD yourself.

          I would argue it's not worth the effort. Most of Disney's high-profile movies are available restored on blu-ray now. The increase in picture and audio quality is worth rebuying instead of converting an analog SD format to a newer medium.

          • I'm pretty sure that at any one time, a large selection of Disney movies are "in the vault" and not available for purchase at retail. That is an issue. And Disney's anti-consumer attitude in this manner has actually subjected them to MORE piracy. Of course, when you have most of Congress in your pocket, you can have copyright terms extended periodically to compensate.
        • Macrovision isn't exactly DRM. Heck, back in the day we could defeat it with a baseband signal adapter from Radio Shack. You could adjust the signal level, and peg the AGC circuit so that it couldn't be fooled into screwing with the brightness anymore.
          • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *
            There were also devices specifically designed to filter out the noise Macrovision added in the VBI. I think I still have one kicking around somewhere; if you google "Macrovision removal circuit," you'll find several largely similar devices that'll do the job.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Its actually still pretty common device in security systems and in some cases on demand services still use banks of VCRs (hotels mostly) a large telco that does IPTV in Canada still has some in service for local hotels on demand services, at least they did last year while i still worked there

    • People whos old VHS player broke and wants a new one.

      Some people still have quite a collection of VHS that they would like to watch.

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      Anyone who actually wants to make/own their own copy of a broadcasted show so they don't have a dependency on being connected to the Internet and to have to pay again to stream it, and someone else keeping it available?

      • My old HD homerun does a bang up job at that. Hells in the late 90's it was a directivo and pulling the data off that.

    • Who in hell bought these?

      Among other users, prisons and psych hospitals for their "day room" libraries.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That sounds like a lot to me.

  • kinda sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @03:20PM (#52548919)

    750,000 sales isn't enough to be interesting these days :(

    No one can just make money anymore, you have to make MORE than you made yesterday or you're a failure :/
    (Wonder how that will work out for Nintendo next year...)

    • I'm out of mod points, or I would have modded parent insightful.

    • Well Good old economics 101.
      750,000 in sales could be good however without the demand, it could mean making each unit at a loss.
      People are not going to spend thousands of dollars on a VHS where alternatives are much cheaper. So they will need to sell them at under $100 a pop. Then you have labor cost to make around 2,000 units a day. And parts that are getting more expensive. Having the building to keep operational... It all adds up If they could do 1 million it may be more justifiable.

      It isn't always ab

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        People are not going to spend thousands of dollars on a VHS where alternatives are much cheaper.

        If they are selling 750,000 units a year, there is OBVIOUSLY still demand for them.

        The only question is.... how strong will that demand be in the case of increasing prices?

        I don't know the answer to the question. It would be helpful to know why people still want to buy VCRs.

        If they have priceless home videos on VHS, then people may be willing to spend more than $1000 on a VCR, by the way, just to be ab

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      I'm sure some Chinese company -- maybe one you've kind heard of (like Huawei) or maybe a totally new one -- will pick up the slack. 750k units/year oughtta be enough for someone. If there's only one choice on the shelf, it'll sell no matter what name is on the box.

      Free tip: make one VCR and sell it under two brand names. Make the first slightly flimsy-looking (like a late-90s entry-level Mitsubishi unit) and sell it for $X, and make the other weigh 6oz more (via the addition of a useless steel plate in the

      • by sootman ( 158191 )

        (One of those times when I wish there was an edit button...)

        One last thought: make a model for a few bucks more with a built-in analog-to-digital converter (c'mon, that's gotta be like 20 cents now for something that only needs to do SD video) and let it output straight to a USB drive. Hell, maybe add a couple more circuits to 'upscale' to HD because people are idiots. If you wanna be really fancy, give it some built-in storage and a browser-based front-end so you can watch from any device in the house, and

    • Wonder how that will work out for Nintendo next year...

      That's an interesting question that people have been asking Nintendo for 20 years now.

    • I thought that too at first. But it takes a long time to ship from China. They've probably built up significant stocks they're anticipating demand will be effectively zero after they sell through those stocks.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's a market flooded by used units that can be had for practically nothing. They overcome this by making high end units, but now that they are facing an expensive re-design due to parts becoming obsolete they can see that it just isn't worth it.

      Maybe another company will step in, but if say some low cost Chinese manufacturer wants to start making VCRs they will have to spend the money developing a high end reliable unit because at the cheap end of the market old stock and free used VCRs will make it imposs

  • The VCRs are made in China by a Japanese company. VCRs haven't been made *in* Japan for a while now.

  • Works fine with my 720 line digital TV. Paid for itself by avoiding cable DVR fees. I hear it wontbwork with a 1080.
  • Both the Salvation Army and Goodwill have reported strong supplies of "refurbished" VCRs in a wide variety of makes and models. Get your home entertainment system to blink 12:00 today; stop by your local shop and pick one up!

  • by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2016 @09:24PM (#52550969) Homepage
    750,000 units a year is still over 2,000 a day -- there's plenty of companies that would kill for those kind of numbers.
  • According to this article http://www.heise.de/newsticker... [heise.de] it's not VCRs but video cassettes. Which make the number much more plausible IMHO.
  • I don't have a DVR. I had been using VHS to record some late-night shows that I would enjoy watching in the morning while on my treadmill. This worked up until Time Warner Cable made my VCR unusable by ceasing analog broadcasts to my VCR's tuner was of no use. I don't want to rent several DVRs from TWC. I found a company on the web that sells a variety of M-Card enabled DVRs and cable boxes, but they turned out to be a scam. So, I'm wondering what I should do. I hear TiVo doesn't work without a subscription

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