Sunday 4 January 2009

Death of VHS: Whither Diana Ser's comic genius?

VHS is dead. Long live DVD! No, wait, isn’t DVD also dying? Long live Blu-ray!

No, wait. isn’t Blu-ray going to be obsolete in a few years? Long live digital distribution!

No wonder the salesman at Harvey Norman openly laughed in my face when I told him I was looking for a new VCR to replace mine that had just broken down.

Hey, at least I wasn’t looking for an LD player. Now that would be a joke. Unlike the short-lived laser disc, the VHS (or Video Home System) lasted 30 years.

But just before Christmas, the LA Times reported that the last major US supplier of video tapes was finally calling it quits. Hollywood has already stopped releasing movies on VHS in 2006.

Surprisingly, JVC was still manufacturing stand-alone VCRs until last October – the last company to do so.

Surely, I can buy one somewhere in Singapore. Otherwise, how was I going to play the dozens of mouldy tapes of shows I had recorded from TV over the years that I had never gotten around to watch?

Like that episode of the local sitcom Three Rooms from the late ’90s where Diana Ser supposedly did something hilarious which I can’t describe because dammit, I haven’t seen the episode.

Now I may never know the comic genius of Ms Ser, thanks to the obsolescence of video tape technology.

But it’s not just video. Research firm Gartner has recently urged the music industry to “move away from the retail CD as its primary revenue generator before Christmas 2009” to focus on digital distribution as CD sales continue to plummet in the new millennium.

And I still have cassettes.

But no eight-track cartridges, thank goodness.

The great thing about compact discs is that even if they stop making CD players, I have already ripped the songs from my CD collection onto my computer.

The trouble is my iTunes library has now swollen to over 18,000 songs – every one of which I’ve promised myself I would listen to at least once before I die.

Even the non-English titles by Celine Dion that I can’t pronounce. Even something called If You Love Someone, Set Them On Fire by the Dead Milkmen. And yes, even the Muppets.

After wiping the tears from his eyes from all that laughing, the salesman at Harvey Norman recommended that I get a DVD/HDD video recorder instead.

Long story short, on my HDD are now hours of shows recorded from TV that I will probably never get around to watch.

And soon it will be replaced by newer technology with which I will record more shows that I won’t get around to watch – and so on.

By the way, my turntable also just broke down.

Did Diana Ser ever release a comedy album?

- Published in The New Paper, 4 January 2009