I have a feeling most eyeballs that will stumble across this blog are younger – folks who have only ever known home movie viewing via streaming. They didn’t know the toil of amassing a home video collection. They didn’t know what it meant to go to Blockbuster and rent a video.
They definitely would have no idea what it means to say, “Be kind. Rewind.”
I’m old enough to remember when DVDs first came out, and I’m definitely old enough to know what they replaced. I’m also uniquely qualified to answer the question, “Which is better: VHS or DVD?”
I won’t bury the answer at the bottom of this article like some other websites like to do (I’m looking at you, recipe pages!). The answer is actually pretty simple. DVDs were unequivocally, eternally, infinitely, and absolutely better than VHS in basically every possible way. Let me elaborate by first providing a glimpse into the insanity of VHS for those who never experienced it.
For those who don’t know, VHS tapes are rectangular boxes with film inside. When you wanted to watch a movie in the 70s, 80s, and early-to-mid 90s, you had to put on a VHS. The tapes would go into the VCR, you’d hit play, and wait for your movie to start. But wait! First you’d need to fast forward through previews, quasi-commercials, and warnings that if you copied the movie you’d never get out of jail because it was basically the same as committing grand larceny.
Of course, that experience only existed if the VHS tape was rewound when you stuck it into the VCR.
See, my older sister was maniacal. Diabolical even. She never rewound a tape after watching it. For those that don’t know what that means, when the movie is over, you had to hit the rewind button and wait for about two minutes for all the film to get back to the beginning. Movies didn’t magically always start at the beginning on a VHS tape. If you were hit with the unwound tape, you’d gleefully stick in your favorite movie (Superman with Christopher Reeves) only to see a black screen with credits rolling on the TV. All excitement would drain from your face as you stopped the tape, hit rewind, and waited for what felt like an eternity while the movie went back to the beginning. Most of the time, when you were back to the beginning, you wouldn’t even feel like watching the movie anymore at all.
And it wasn’t just sisters who left tapes un-rewound. Human monsters would rent VHS tapes from rental shops and return tapes without rewinding. It was a tough lesson to learn as a young six year old: most people don’t care about you. They won’t rewind the tape. Get used to it.
Then DVDs came around. Not only did you never have to rewind a DVD, the picture was better, they came with cool special features, you could skip through previews way easier, and you could even navigate to different chapters in movies in a single click. DVDs had smaller, sleeker cases, and they were all cool and shiny on the back.
Once DVDs were released, people bought the DVD version of movies they already owned on VHS. They couldn’t get rid of those tapes fast enough. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how much better DVDs are, I don’t know what will.
I miss some things about my childhood. I miss new episodes of Hey Arnold. I miss the woods around my parents’ house that were demolished 20 years ago for a neighborhood development. I miss nap time. I even kind of miss owning a bunch of movies on DVD.
But I don’t miss VHS tapes one single bit. They were terrible.