Cool Tapes

I was born in an age when television was pumped into your house via some variety of tube. This is why the box of a TV was so large – it had to contain the bottle that filled up with television over the course of the day, and the screen you watched it on was the ‘bottom’ of it. You watched it when it was on — and that meant there were times of day, when, well, it didn’t matter what you wanted to watch, the TV was only offering news, news, and also, news. Channel 10 was at least kind enough to put the news on at 5 PM (First at 5) so the ‘news’ slot could be replaced by the Simpsons reruns.

But at some point in my youth, back when I was a youths, we acquired a Beta recorder, then, quickly, a VHS recorder, that let us record dad’s Murphy Brown episodes while he was away at Bible Study and we wanted to watch… I… you know, I don’t know. But we watched something.

Anyway, thing is, a tape recorder system was great, it let us save movies we liked, and we’d even do things like watch a movie, record it while we watched it, and pause the recording during the ads, and you know, that’s neat, right? But we didn’t have an infinite number of tapes – storage was a concern – so we would record over other tapes. You don’t need last week’s episode of Burke’s Backyard when there’s this week’s episode of Hey Dad! to record.

Hm, awful lot of sexual predators going on in that tape. Sorry.

Anyway, the idea was you write on the label on the front of the VHS what was in it. Which works for… two… things. Maybe. Then you run out of space or you have to relabel it (and that’s a pain in the butt).

I want to underscore for you at this point that I was a child. Like I have memories of this when I was… like… seven. Because I remember coming up with a solution for this, and it involved a trip down to my beloved not-even-a-dollar store, Go Lo.

My solution – and I still can’t believe I told my mother about this and she implemented it – was to write a letter on each label of our tapes. A, B, C, D, etc and so on. Then, I got a cheap $1 phone book – you know, we used to sell little books with annotated pages – and that book served as a history of what was taped on that videotape. Then you wrote down in the book on each page what was currently recorded, and you crossed out what was on it last. If you’d just stuck something on the end, you could append that, too.

And like… this works?

This was a system, devised by a child, for managing VHS tapes that we used for some time? The address book lived along with the VHS tapes, and when I wanted to check out what was on a tape, you flip open the address book and check, and

inevitably it was wrong, because we forgot to update the address book and dad just wrote on the labels and okay, so nobody used this system but me and I would sometimes spend entire weekends just checking and updating the book.

But the idea was sound.

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