Digital video is killing the VCR, the home electronics star of the 1980s and ’90s.
Video cassette recorders, the most successful consumer electronic devices ever besides TVs, are now an endangered species, selling for as little as $20 at some retailers – the same price as some low-end DVD players that have far, far better picture quality.
And that’s if a retailer even still sells VCRs. Dixons, the largest home electronics chain in the U.K. stopped selling the devices this month, a move that signals the death knell for the gadget that has been a mainstay in our homes for more than 25 years.
“We’re saying goodbye to one of the most important products in the history of consumer technology,” Dixons marketing director John Mewett told a reporter.
No major U.S. retailer has pushed the stop button on VCRs yet – despite dropping sales world wide and the availability of better technology like recordable DVDs and digital video recorders, some stores say the demand for VCRs is still there.
“It’s still a very healthy business for us,” a spokesperson for Best Buy, the Minnesota-based chain of electronics stores. ”We’ll will continue to sell them for the foreseeable future as long the market is there for them.”
But what’s coming soon is a sad end for a machine, initially introduced by JVC in the 1970s that fought and won a pitched battle during the 1980s against Sony’s Betamax. The two incompatible formats clashed for years with Sony conceding in 1988.
VCR sales have been on the decline for years. Since 2000 it is estimated that that sales of the devices have gone from $1.87 billion to just $144 million, according to statistics from the Consumer Electronics Association.
Next year, the CEA projects that only 2.8 million VCRs will be sold compared to the 23 million that people bought in 2000.
And even then, the VCR had begun to give way to DVD players. At its peak sometime between 1980 and 1990 it is estimated that about 200 million units were sold in one year.