Monday, July 25, 2016

Redbox Sold!

On Friday I wrote a blog on Redbox trying a streaming business again.  Today, Redbox parent Outerwall Inc. has announced that it will be bought by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, per the NY Times.  Besides its more well known Redbox kiosks which rent out DVDs, the company also has a coin change business, Coinstar, that takes a fee every time consumers use the machine to convert change to dollars.

Will Apollo support the streaming side of the business or simply use this acquisition to try and spin it off to more capable hands?  We will wait and see. 

The VCR is Dead; Goodbye Old Friend

Technology is full of life changing moments.  With every change, our life is meant to get easier and easier.  But it has also spelled the death for the old technology before it.  There are too many examples to recount, but one that hits home for me is the announcement that the VCR, the videocassette recorder is dead.  Production of new models will cease and their use will become a memory as the digital revolution completely takes over.  Goodbye old friend.

I remember when we first got one in our home.  It was life changing allowing us to record and watch any show we wanted.  It also let us watch theatrical movies when ever we wanted.  And we could pause or stop them for the necessary potty break.  When I moved into my first apartment, the VCR was a gift from the folks.  I was ecstatic.  Now I could go out on a Saturday Night and know that SNL was being recorded for my Sunday viewing pleasure.  For those that knew how to program the VCR clock, TV was finally on your time.  Of course, tapes were limited to 6 hours at the most, but that was never an issue. 

Many people used their VCR to make endless recordings of their favorite series, keeping them in their video library.  I too would record my favorite movies to watch again and again.  Friends would borrow and some would even forget to return.  A number of years later, I was at a friend's apartment.  She had moved to LA and looking at her tape collection, I saw one of my copies.  I had always wondered where that tape had gone.

The VCR outlived its competition, from laser discs to betamax, but it couldn't outlive technological change.  The VCR was still analog and digital technology was emerging.  For many, the VCR made TV viewing easier; for others, they could never figure out how to set the clock.  The launch of the DVR, the digital video recorder, took away that problem and more.  We were no longer limited to the tape length of 6 hours although viewing was limited to the box that we saved our show on.  That iss ue has now been solved through digital streaming. 

The VCR was a breakthrough technology.  Not only could we watch time shifted programming, we had more controls, too.  We could fast forward through commercials and rewind to watch over and over our favorite parts.  It put TV into the hands of the individual.  It was the first device to deliver what you want, when you want it. 

I no longer own a VCR and yet I still have old tapes lying around the house.  For some, I feel the need to transfer off analog tapes and onto another for later viewing.  I would say to transfer onto a CD but that technology is likely the next to see production stop.  No longer do Apple computers include CD players in their laptops or desktops.  Cars no longer need them either.  Our digital memories are to be stored in cloud libraries, not physical ones in our study or family room. 

Millennials will pay little attention to the news announcing the end of VCR production.  They know only DVRs, on-demand, and streaming.  But the VCR was an important part of my youth and the way that TV viewing changed for me.  Goodbye old friend.