End of video recorders moves a step closer

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The Independent Online

The death of the video recorder came a step closer today when the country's largest electrical chain said it is stopping selling them.

The death of the video recorder came a step closer today when the country's largest electrical chain said it is stopping selling them.

Dixons has decided to phase out VCRs after more than a quarter of a century to concentrate on their successor, the DVD.

The move signals the beginning of the end of VHS (video home system), the technology which revolutionised viewing habits around the world when it allowed people to leave the house without missing their favourite programmes.

But the humble VCR, with its clunky tapes and habit of chewing up precious recordings, has fallen victim to the speed and superior quality of DVD.

Dixons say demand for video cassette recorders has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 1990S.

Meanwhile sales of DVD players have grown seven-fold in the past five years.

As a result DVD players now outstrip sales of VCRs by a ratio of 40 to one.

The final nail in the coffin for VCRs is the rock-bottom price of DVD players, from as little as £25 and the cost of DVD recorders dropping to a level within reach of many consumers.

Dixons expects to sell its remaining stock of video cassette recorders by Christmas.

John Mewett, marketing director at Dixons, said: "We're saying goodbye to one of the most important products in the history of consumer technology.

"The video recorder has been with us for a generation and many of us have grown up with the joys and the occasional frustrations of tape-based recording.

"We are now entering the digital age and the new DVD technology available represents a step change in picture quality and convenience".

The first video cassette recorder went on sale at Dixons in 1978 priced £798.75 the equivalent of more than £3,000 today.

It was made Japanese electronics giant JVC, which invented the VHS format, and had a slot in the top to insert the tape and piano-style keys. A similar model was branded the Ferguson Videostar.

The early 1980s saw a battle between VHS and its main competitor Betamax, from Sony.

VHS eventually won, largely because it was the format favoured by rental shops which many households used because the machines were still too expensive.

By 1990 more than 200 million video cassette recorders a year were sold worldwide

Dixons saw sales of VCRs peak in 1993 and by 2002 almost 90% of UK households owned at least one.

However the days of the video recorder were numbered with the arrival of DVD (digital video disc).

It offers better digital quality, space-saving discs and instant access to recordings rather than having to fast forward and rewind through tapes.

But the pace of change means even DVD is now facing new competition.

Hard disk drive recorders can store more than 400 hours worth of TV and allows owners to record a programme while at the same time watch one from earlier.

Andy Hain, a VCR collector who runs a website dedicated to the machines, said: "I knew the end was near when I saw shops dropping the price of VHS tapes to get rid of them.

"I would have thought that by this time next year, if you wanted to buy a VCR for Christmas, you would have trouble."

But Mr Hain paid tribute to VHS: "It's hard to imagine today, but once upon a time you had a simple choice: you could stay home and watch TV or you could go out which meant missing your favourite programmes.

"But gradually the VCR crept into our lives until it was hard to imagine life without them."

There is still hope for die-hard fans of VHS or those with tape collections.

Currys, the sister company of Dixons, will continue to sell the machines for the time being.

And department store John Lewis said it had no plans to phase them out.

Dan Knowles, director of buying for electricals and home technology at John Lewis, said: "Sales of VCRs are in decline but we still sell a lot of them.

"As long as there is a market for them we will continue to sell them."

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