Why VHS tapes are better than DVDs and Blu-Ray

Sun, 24 Apr 2022

Following up on Why Dial-Up Internet Is Better it seemed appropriate for some satire on DVD and Blu-ray DRM, UOP, etc.

Anyone alive in the 1980 and even in the 1990s is most likely familiar with VHS, the archaic video format involving plastic cassette tapes and the big, clunky bricks that were used to play them. These days, you'll really only find VHS tapes in thrift stores, many of them with rental store stickers still on them. Say what you will about these obsolete things, but there are actually a few ways in which they're better than their disc successors.

  • More resistant to damage. If you scratch a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, you risk damaging it to the point where the disc may become unusable. You might experience screen freezes or a skippy soundtrack, or the disc might not read at all. If you scratch a VHS tape, it still works just fine, assuming you don't scratch the film inside, which is rather difficult to do accidentally. Even if you do damage the film, you might just have a little static and a jumpy screen here and there.
  • Because of their durability, VHS cassettes can be the perfect video choice for very young children. Little kids aren't exactly known for handling things with care and it would be very easy for them to damage a disc. Meanwhile, they can throw a VHS tape down the stairs and it'll still work, and it's much easier for them to put a tape in a VCR than try to place a disc onto a disc tray.
  • Keeping your place mid-movie. When you completely turn off your DVD/Blu-Ray player and/or take the disc out, you have to go to the scene selection screen and find which scene was closest to the one you left off on. Compare to a VHS tape, which you can stop, take out of the VCR, not pick up again for ten years and it still remembers where you left off.
  • Price. When VHS tapes were still being actively made and sold, they were about as expensive (if not more so) as many DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are now. But, since they're an outdated format, you can easily find them at yard sales and thrift stores for less than a dollar each. You can get VCRs pretty cheap at thrift stores as well.
  • Not too high-definition. Some more modern forms of media are so sharp and defined that you can actually see the actors' pores. Do you ever notice that? It's kind of weird to look at. Apparently, too much of a good thing exists even in movies. VHS, on the other hand, has just the right touch of lesser quality to allow you to focus on the film itself and not the texture of the characters' faces.
  • Easier for some folks to use. For many grandparents and parents, discs are a little too new-fangled. It can be tough for some folks to navigate menus and press tiny buttons to get where they need to go, especially if the disc in question is one of the kinds with several movies on the same disc. With VHS tapes, you just pop them in and let them run.
  • You can fast-forward through anything. With most disc-based films, there are certain moments before the film begins that you absolutely cannot skip: the anti-sharing warning, the previews or the intro for whatever studio made the film. It's annoying that you can't just pass on these features and get right to the movie. With VHS, you can start fast-forwarding the second the tape starts running.
  • You don't have to deal with region codes. Some DVD and Blu-Ray discs have region codes, enforced by the player, which just means that certain movies won't play in certain regions. There are no worries about this with VHS; if you have a tape that's all in German and you don't live in Germany, it will still work in your American VCR.
  • Some things are only available on VHS. Certain films and shows never got a DVD release, so if you've got your heart set on adding one of these titles to your collection, you'll have no choice but to get it on tape. Unfortunately, such treasures often cost a pretty penny; something that wasn't re-released on disc is almost always something that wasn't very popular, meaning it's going to be on the rarer side and might be somewhat of a collector's item.
  • VHS-exclusive original versions. Certain movies may have had bits and pieces tweaked or edited out for their future DVD releases, and the only way to see that original version (legally) would be to obtain a VHS copy of the film.
  • Nostalgic value. Just about everyone who grew up in the last quarter of the twentieth century watched their favorite films on tape, and VHS is a big part of many folks' childhoods. Sometimes, it just feels more right to watch your beloved cel-animated Disney movies with a VCR.