Thursday, July 21, 2016
The end of the VHS, and what it means for the library
Well, we've been dreading this moment for years now: the VHS is officially obsolete.
Funai, the last company that still manufactures VHS players, will end their production at the end of the month. This comes less than a year after Betamax tapes were also discontinued. As of August 1st, the VHS will be a format permanently in the past; outside of small artisanal efforts (the article we linked to mentions a collector community that might not go down so easily), there will never be any more VHS players than currently exist in the world. That's all we've got.
This won't have too much of a practical effect for most people who have already replaced their VHS collections, but we worry about what will come of all the VHSes that have never been re-released or preserved. Countless documentaries and ephemera will become unavailable, assuming the tapes last longer than the supply of players.
For a few years now, Media Services has been in the process of preserving our VHS collection to ensure that this problem won't impact the AU community. We've been conducting an extensive audit of our VHSes to see what isn't available on any other format and whether we're within the legal grounds to digitize and create our own DVD copy of it. As part of this, we're also collaborating with other groups on campus like ATV and Athletics to preserve other valuable VHS videos, including old commencement addresses.
We still have a supply of VHS players and staff who know how to fix them, so we'll be fine in the long run. Let's take a second to commemorate this inevitable but sad moment for physical media.