I started working at Movies Unlimited in the summer of 1980. In those days there were only a handful of video stores in the country, and there were few outlets that actually sold VCR’s. Even the local electronics retailer, Silo, didn’t have them yet. But MU did. And we sold hundreds of them.
At that time there was a format war, with the Sony Betamax vs. JVC’s VHS. We sold Sony Betas and RCA brand VHS recorders. Sony was actually the better machine, both mechanically and picture wise. But they were very proprietary and wanted a lock on the market, so they only licensed the Beta technology to one other brand, Toshiba. JVC had more foresight and licensed their technology to many of the major American brands as well as some Japanese competitors.
As a result, by the time I saved enough money to buy my first VCR a few months later it was clear that VHS was going to become the dominant format, even in 1980. So, I decided to get a VHS recorder. But not just any recorder. I had to get the top of the line RCA recorder, the RCA 650. It had all the bells and whistles all of the other machines didn’t have: 4 heads for a better picture, slow motion, 3 recording speeds AND a corded, fancy dancy remote that was one-of-a kind at the time. I paid $1000 wholesale for it, an amazing expense in those days. Looking back, it was insanity to spend that kind of money (although even the basic recorders at that time were hundreds of dollars). But it was worth it to me at the time and I got a lot of enjoyment from that recorder. And since I was one of the first of my friends to get one I was pretty popular, too.
Do you remember your first VCR? Tell us about it in the comments.
Ed Weiss is the General Manager of Movies Unlimited. He is writing recollections in honor of our 35th Anniversary.