It’s odd to think that until the early 1980s, the only TV show we could watch at home was whatever broadcasters chose to show at any given time.
And in the UK, of course, there were just three ‘sides’ available until Channel 4 launched in 1982.
So it’s really no exaggeration to say that the video cassette recorder – or ‘VCR’ – revolutionised home entertainment.
For the first time, we could record TV (even when we were out!), watch it back day or night, and build private collections of our favourite shows.
What’s more, we could go to a local store to rent blockbuster movies such as ‘ET’ and ‘American Werewolf in London’ years before they were shown on TV. (Of course, before returning a film, we’d have to remember to fully rewind the tape).
Fast-forward 30 years and we’re able to record and store dozens of programmes onto a hard disk-based PVR (Personal Video Recorder), and download TV shows and movies ‘on demand’ – all via simple, on-screen menus from the comfort of our sofas.
No fussy tapes, no running across the room to manually wind past adverts or boring bits and no accidental recording over dad’s favourite film.
So what, we wondered, would children from the digital generation make of an early, top-loading VHS player?
You can see for yourself in the video above, the latest in our series in which we test popular gadgets from ‘80s Britain on a group of 5 to 12-year-olds.
For the record, we used a Ferguson Videostar 3V30, which cost a whopping £525 back in 1981. This one cost us £50 from eBay.
Sadly, with UK television signals now digital only, we couldn’t ask the children to try the recording functionality. Then again, we’d probably struggle with the manual programming ourselves…
Can you remember your first VHS recorder or the first film you rented? Have other memories which you’d like to share? Let us know in the Comments below.