Family trips to Disneyland, gift openings on Christmas or other holidays, and glimpses of the family’s youngest member attempting to blow out the handful of candles on their birthday cake; these are among the favorite cherished memories captured with Mom and Dad’s video camera. They are also on the verge of becoming lost forever as the equipment used to play them is quickly disappearing from homes all over the country.
History has shown that media formats have a limited life span
Do you remember the old Victrolas? How about reel-to-reel tape, 8-tracks, 8mm film or the Betamax VCR? As technology speeds ahead, media formats are left behind, sometimes, along with their contents. Some of the old recordings made during the days of the Victrola have managed to survive long enough to be digitally restored with the aide of advanced computer software. The infamous “duet” of Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie is one of the best known examples of this technological wonder.
Many of the recordings made in people’s homes using the once popular Betamax VCR have not been so fortunate. The extinction of the format along with the VCRs capable of playing the Betamax tapes have left thousands of people with videos they’ll probably never get to see again. History is about to repeat itself as the 8mm, Hi8, Digital8, VHS-C and VHS formats are nearing the end of their viewing life.
The end of the 8mm, Hi-8, and Digital-8 video formats
Sony, the creator of the 8mm, Hi8, and Digital 8 tape formats has been phasing out production of all of their 8mm camcorder models. In fact, their website no longer includes any 8mm models in their current product lineup.
During the lifespan of the 8mm videotape formats there were relatively few video players produced that would play any of the 8mm video formats, so most consumers had to use their cameras in order to view the tapes on their television screens.
The cost of repairing an 8mm camcorder was nearly that of purchasing a new one, so when it ceased to function, it was usually thrown away. Many 8mm camera owners grew frustrated with the idea of having to use the camera to play the tapes, so they opted to switch over to the VHS-C format. Others decided to go with the newer MiniDV format when it became the more popular format.
The combination of these factors have left us with very few fully-functioning videotape players that are necessary in order to transfer 8mm videos to a format like DVD that can be viewed on televisions now. It’s expected that within the next few years it could become nearly impossible to make these conversions, as we run out of equipment to play them, as it did with Betamax. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that anyone who has one of these formats should have their 8mm, Hi8, and Digital8 videos transferred to DVD as soon as possible or risk losing their contents forever.
VHS and VHS-C tape formats are next
JVC, the inventor of the VHS and VHS-C formats, has been phasing out the VHS-C camcorders. While VHS-C tapes can still be played in a standard VCR using a special adaptor, VCR’s have been rapidly disappearing from retailers’ shelves as a result of the transition to DVD. VCRs are expected to be gone within the next few years.
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