life before VCRs

I am into technology like most people, but I don’t consider myself biased towards the newest thing. Most technological advancements are significant improvements, but are not radical changes. CDs sound better than LPs, microwaves cook faster than conventional ovens, digital cameras are more convienient than traditional cameras.

But the VCR seems like a major change. We must have gotten our first VCR in 81 or 82, when i was around 9 or 10. I don’t really remember TV watching well enough from before it to truly compare. But for those of you who are a bit older than me, what was life like before VCRs?

If you had a favorite movie, and it came on TV, you had to watch it then? Could you ever decide you really wanted to watch an old movie? Were commercial breaks much more important for getting a snack or going to the bathroom? If you were on the news, lets say, you had to just watch it, and then forget it?

I realize the answers to the questions are obviously yes, but did you realize what was missing?

As someone who can definitely remember time P.V. – pre-VCR …

Yeah, you had to watch stuff when it was scheduled by the networks, not when it was convenient. An’ if there’s only one TV in th’ house, and your Aunt Gerty wanted to see “Crinoline through the Ages” at the same time as “Red Dwarf” or something else cool – heh. I reckon pre-VCR TV was one o’ the major causes o’ “domestics”.

When New Zealand went multi-channel, to TWO channels ( :eek: ) we in the Wolf household were fine ‘cause we had two TV sets. But when it went to THREE – thank the saints o’ magnetic tape that there were VCRs, man.

VCRs? Love ‘em. One’s recording The Simpsons as I hunt n’ peck.

But now that my girlfriend has a Tivo, we have the next step in the evolution. I can come into a program late and watch from the beginning, catch up by fast forwarding, and then watch something else recorded as the live program continues to record. I can then go back to the live program and fast forward through the commercials, foul balls, cup adjusting, etc.

God bless the people at Tivo.

Yeah, what everyone else has said.
You had to watch when it was on, or wait for summer reruns.
But (for me at least), this was back in the days before cable, so there wasn’t much of a choice, anyway.
We didn’t get cable till around 81 or 82 (I graduated from HS in 82), and before that we had the three networks, one independent channel that showed old sitcoms and movies, and two PBS channels.

[Dad Voice]And we actually had to GET UP and WALK ACROSS the room to change the channel or the volume[/Dad Voice].

I can also remember having a TV that had to be turned on about five minutes BEFORE the show started, so it had time to “warm up”. :slight_smile:

thought of something else…

Anyone else remember the first video stores? You had to pay outrageous fees to “join” their club? IIRC, you could only keep a tape one night.
I remember hearing that various people came up with the idea of loaning videos (like a library), but had trouble getting small business loans, because no one thought a video-rental store would ever make it.

When I got married in '83, myhusband owned a Beta machine. There was only ONE video club in town that rented Beta, and it cost $25 to join. The selection was small, but we managed to find a few movies we liked.

It was a big deal in '87 when we bought a VHS VCR, and shortly thereafter sold the Beta at a yard sale. We’ve still got the VHS - just got it repaired, and the guy in the shop told us to hang on to it because it’s better than a lot that are made today…

Incidentally, first TV I owned was black & white, no remote. My grandmother gave it to me. I bought a color TV just before I got married.

Ah, yes, I remember growing up as a movie-crazed kid in the '60s and '70s.Faking sick so I could stay home from school to see an afternoon Joan Crawford movie . . . Sneaking out of bed at 3:00 a.m. into the living room to see “Public Enemy” with the sound turned all the way down . . . Holding my cassette recorder in front of the TV during Busby Berkeley musicals . . .

Yep. As much of a Luddite as I can be, I am VERY grateful for VCRs.

I do recall it was hellish being a hormonally driven early teen and knowing that…may God help me…Jane Fonda in ‘Barbarella’ was going to on the teevee after midnight. Had to put bath towels at the foot of my bedroom door so the light from the screen couldn’t be discerned by my parents on the way to bed. Very, very sad but, hey !..14 is a strange age. Did the same thing as Eve with the sound.

Come to think of it, every age is strange but at least I get to stay up late now !

London, I’m glad you explained exactly WHY you needed the bathtowels while watching “Barbarella” . . .

[Beautiful Girls]

Paul: Fuck. Fuck! 364 nights a year I do dick…the one night I decide to go out…you gotta tape it for me!

Tommy: Can’t do it. You can’t tape Rich Man Poor Man, you gotta watch it on t.v. with the commercials and everything, just like everybody else.

Paul: You gonna watch it? All twelve parts?

Tommy: Back to back.

Paul: Shit. That’s a tough call…you bastard. Shit.

[/Beautiful Girls]

curwin, I realize in today’s society, you’re OP puts you squarely within the norm (hell, I like TV too), but a cold reading of your post makes you sound extremely spoiled.

Allow me to explain…

If you have no knowledge of something it’s kind of hard to miss it. It would be like going back 200 years and asking someone if they regret the fact that they can’t drive their Chevy 55 miles per hour.

When I was a kid in the 70’s, growing up in Northern Maine. Not only did we not have VCR’s, television itself was a scarcity. We had three channels to choose from - two of them were in French, and the other was PBS.

Entertainment was found in movie theaters and from books and from interacting with other people.

As weird as this may sound to some, life does not revolve around whether or not you get to watch Porky’s Revenge whenever you want to.

I think Jack Batty makes a very good point. We had other things to do. I can remember going off on Saturdays (or summer days) for HOURS, riding bikes, swimming, playing in the creek, playing games outside (Capture the Flag, Hide & Seek, pick-up baseball), walking to the drug store to spend a dollar for a week’s worth of candy…and it was safe to do so. There was also no Nintendo, no computers, no GameBoys, etc.

You had to make a choice between two shows, and that was that. There was no other option.
OTOH, I think the scariest thing you could see on TV were the dreaded words, “To be continued…”
Oh, no, will I remember to watch next week? Will I be home? Is it my cousin’s wedding next week? Will we be on vacation?

Slightly off-topic:
I can remember being about 10 or so, and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a thingy on the phone that would show you the phone number of who was calling? And then you wouldn’t have to answer it if you didn’t want to talk to that person!”
I invented Caller ID when I was 10! Really! :wink:

We convinced my seminar professor in college to move the start time of cless to 8:30 pm (from 8:00) because we all just had to watch Mork and Mindy. I think he went along with it because

a) he knew we wouldn’t show up until then anyway, and
b) it gave him more time to get drunk.

Ah, yes. You haven’t really been to college if you haven’t taken a Greek Literature freshman seminar from an alcoholic monk. Homer really is fun, and don’t get me started on Plato–but that’s another story.
I remember when you didn’t just rent the tapes–you rented the whole machine. Yes, children, the whole VCR, complete with the cables needed to hook it to your TV. They were “play only” and came in a nifty carrying case. And they got very irate if you forgot to bring back the cables!! Every TV was different, so you had to be a bit of a detective to get the cable hooked up to the right stuff, and sometimes you needed this connector thingy, and sometimes you needed a threaded end instead of a plug-in. . .Now you know why “cable-ready” TV’s are such a good idea.

Well, I just wanted to mention revival movie theaters. When I was a kid in the mid 60’s to early 70’s there were many such theaters here in NYC. The old James Bond films would come around maybe once a year. So instead of renting “Goldfinger,” I got to see it in a theater! Many old classic movies were shown.

Ah. Pre VCR. I remember it well.

I remember extreme frustration about it. I grew up in a family that valued reading very much. I am quite grateful for this - my sisters and I would spend our summers devouring BOOKS, and also doing sewing and craft projects, going to the park, what have you. I think we were fortunate to have parents that limited our TV time. However, they just did it all wrong. They would allow, or not allow my sisters and I to see programs on a whim. It didn’t matter how litte TV I actually watched (which was not a lot, comparatively.) It didn’t matter that most of my TV tastes were pretty decent, sometimes even educational. It seemed like my parents would let the phases of the moon to dictate whether we could see something, or not. It was MOST frustrating. So, after years of that frustration, I welcomed having some sort of control.

First, I got a radio with a TV band. I don’t know if you can find these anymore, but it has a TV band along with an AM/FM. (I think this was used a lot by sports fans who wanted to listen to a game that was only broadcast on TV.) My parents grumbled at this, but couldn’t stop it. I “listened” to TV, and even taped the audio at times. And then, finally, the VCR. Total control! I could tape whatever I wanted, and see it whenever I wanted, like when they weren’t around! The problem was, most blank VHS tapes cost about $10-$15, which is a lot for a kid to cough up at times. But still - there was some CONTROL! No more missing Part II of something! Sometimes the parental units consented to us seeing part I, but when Part II came around, the phase of the moon wasn’t right, so we couldn’t see it.

Yeah, I still have emotional scars! :wink:

At least we grew up with a few local TV stations. In L.A. there was Channel 2 (KCBS), 4 (NBC), 5 (KTLA), 7 (KABC), 9 (KCAL), 11 (FOX), and 13 (KCOP). That’s not too bad. Of course, Channel 13 had all the really old cheesy reruns on it, with Channel 11 and 9 being not too much better.

Aah, yes. I can remember back when I didn’t have a VCR. It must’ve been back in… oooo… 2000?

When I got divorced, all I took was the second TV in the bedroom and my computer. Not being much of a TV person nyway, I didn’t miss the VCR. I spent over two years without one.

Now, I’m livin with my tech head g/f who has two wide screen TVs, a VCR and a DVD player, and I still hardly ever watch the box. Just prop me in front of the SDMB with a cold beer.

Seeing things once was just a fact of life. Everything on TV was like that. That was the way it was and we just accepted it.

I remember some TV specials from the 50s and 60s. They were indeed special then - live and one time only.

Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”. As a kid I absolutely loved this special! It was one of those rare re-broadcasts (or perhaps they actually restaged it, I don’t remember), so I saw it twice, the second time years later.

Boris Karloff reprising his stage role as Jonathan, the psycho brother in “Arsenic and Old Lace”. (That’s why you have the line where someone says Jonathan looks like BK.)

Genevieve Bujold in “Saint Joan”! George C. Scott in “The Crucible”! Peter Ustinov in “Barefoot in Athens”!

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts were an event in my house.

I only saw these once!

We had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and by the time “Peter Pan” came around again I had learned how to connect it directly to our TV’s speaker wires rather than fiddling with a microphone, so I recorded the soundtrack. I also recorded a few others and listened to them many times.

When I was a kid, I saw “Mary Poppins”. Once. After that I had to be satisfied with the soundtrack LP.

In my teens, when I saw a movie I really liked, I would go back on another day and stay in the theater to see multiple showings (yes, you could do that at one time). I saw “2001” and “Fantasia” and a handful of others this way.

I bought a VCR rather late, in the mid 80s (when I was in my 30s). As yosemitebabe says, TOTAL CONTROL! Didn’t have to miss a program, and if you didn’t hear somebody’s line clearly, you could listen to it again! At first, there were a number of times when I reached for the remote to back up a few seconds and then remembered I wasn’t taping.

A few of these specials became available on video, but most of them are lost forever.

The change is incredible. If you want to get an idea of what it was like, just don’t use your VCR for a week, including weekends.

Arguments of what to watch, mostly. Whether it was going to be “Automan”, or something utterly uninteresting that my sister wanted, for incomprehensible and indefensible reasons of her own, to watch instead, could lead to more emotionally-charged arguments then whether or not gun control or abortions were a good idea. (At one point, father actually sat us down and drew up a contract, where in exchange for the channel being where I wished that hour, I would freely yield the choice at any point of opposition at her choice later. She never exercised the option, interestingly.)

I clearly remember the front panel of our first VCR. It had metal buttons. Turning it on involved massive static shocks, which might have something to do with why I watched less and less tv as I got older.

Pre-VCR – well, the solution in Buffalo was Canadian television. We had cable in 1973, and channels 5 (CBC), 9 (CTV), and 11 (independent) from Toronto came in crystal clear. Canadian stations had plenty of American programming, and most shows appeared a day or so before they aired in the U.S., apparently to prevent stations on the American side of the border form dominating Canadian markets. If MAS*H was on Channel 4 (the CBS affiliate in Buffalo) on Wednesday at 9:00 PM, and the time wasn’t convenient, you’d watch it on Tuesday at 8:00 on Channel 5.

Otherwise, there were summer reruns and syndication if you wanted to see a particular show more than once. Now, there’s a whole cable channel devoted almost exclusively to MAS*H reruns, too!

Dear Eve – It’s always a pleasure to avoid the tardy peanut gallery.

On further reflection of early teen inclinations – and with rapidly evaporating credibility - I have to report that even during my wildest moments of youthful vigour the need of a bath towel would have been an over optimistic requirement – unless, of course, it involved watching Susan George in Peckinpah’s ‘Straw Dogs’. Ms George rather set my pimples all a glow.

Now I must get back to mastering this new fangled teevee remote control thingy…