A change of format

video_cassetteOn a recent episode of the US show Elementary, a clue to a murder was contained on a video tape. “Where in Manhattan will we find a video player?” was the comment (or words to that effect).  Well, of course, Sherlock Holmes being who he is, he had one tucked away in a cupboard ready for when he watched old police interrogation tapes.  He was a course an oddity in this respect.  Well, I still have a video recorder, and plenty of old video tapes.  None of which are police interrogation tapes I hasten to add.  Admittedly in the last few months since upgrading to one of those ‘plus’ boxes I haven’t had occasion to use the old video.  Technology has moved on, I’m recording straight to disc, and rewinding and pausing live TV (which is still great fun and a novelty at the moment).   My husband keeps trying to make me throw away some of my old tapes (ones taped off the telly), I’m holding out for the moment. Partly because they are MY tapes, and you know, I just might watch them again one day; and partly because I think its a crying shame that they will end up in landfill.  We bury enough rubbish as a nation, are everyone’s video tapes now adding to that pile (ok, they have probably been adding to the piles for a good few years now, I’m a little slow on the new technology uptake).

mixtapeI still have vinyl records, and we do have a record player, not that it is currently set up, and not that I have listened to my records in a long time, but I am not going to get rid of them.  I also have dozens and dozens of tapes, and a couple of machines that will play them.  I loved the days when people made mixtapes for friends and lovers – a real labour of love, and a joy to receive.  I also have a lot of CDs – but of course, even here I am way behind the times as I’ve not embraced digital music really yet.  But I do now have duplicates of some albums – possibly even three versions of one item!  As on occasion I’ve preferred to buy the newer format to ensure I will listen to it more.

Are we supposed to throw away yesterday’s technology and format, and embrace tomorrow’s?  I am sure plenty of people do, but I just can’t bear to add more to landfill, and so my tapes sit gathering dust on the shelf.  I don’t think you can even give video tapes to Charity shops these days.

Libraries too often face these kinds of dilemmas, but they have to be a lot more pragmatic.  No point in holding on to video tapes when less and less people have the technology that will play them.  A video collection in our medical library had to be converted into DVDs by the media recources team to ensure that they could still be used; because despite not being current they still had use and value, but the students didn’t have ‘antiquated’ devices like videoplayers.

If I knew my old videos and cassettes (the bought ones not the home taped ones) would go to a good home then maybe I would weed my collections and make some space on the shelves, until then I refuse to put them in a bin bag.

As technology advances in leaps and bounds perhaps some thought can go on the items left behind; surely there is a social responsibility for ensuring our landscape isn’t left littered with the relics of our recent past.  And perhaps manufacturers could stop feeding us the ‘latest thing’ in dribs and drabs, conning people into buying the newest version which will be outdated almost as soon as you start using it.



Filed under Social history

2 responses to “A change of format

  1. EMS accept up to 100 VHS and audio cassettes from domestic households for free recycling: http://www.ems-europe.co.uk/services/domestic-tape-disc/ The nearest drop-off centre is Bristol if you’re ever heading that way – I hate to think what the postage would be!

  2. Thanks for the solution Alison! That is really helpful.

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