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RIP VCRs: Japanese maker to shelve product as demand shrinks

world Updated: Jul 25, 2016 14:50 IST

Japanese electronics maker Funai says it's yanking the plug on the world's last video cassette recorder. A company spokesman confirmed that production will end sometime this month.(AFP Photo)

Japanese electronics maker Funai Electric Co says it’s yanking the plug on the world’s last video cassette recorder.

A company spokesperson, who requested anonymity citing company practice, confirmed Monday that production will end sometime this month, although he would not give a date.

He said the company wanted to continue production to meet customer requests, but can’t because key component makers are pulling out due to shrinking demand for VCRs.

Many families and libraries have content stored in the VHS format and want to convert the tapes to DVD or other digital disks.

They can do so using VHS/DVD converters, known as “combos” in Japan. Funai will be rolling out such products later this month, the spokesman said.

Funai’s VCR factory, which is in China, is off-limits to media coverage for security reasons because other products are made at the same plant, he said.

In an undated handout photo, a demonstration of a Cartrivision video tape player, which was made available in retail stores in 1973 and sold for approximately $700. (NYT)

Funai began making videotape players in 1983, and videotape recorders in 1985. The company says they were among its all-time hit products.

Last year, Funai made 750,000 VHS machines that played or recorded cassette tapes. In 2000, it made 15 million of them, 70% for the US market, according to the company, based in Osaka, central Japan.

Other products have also grown outdated with the advance of digital and other technology. That includes film cameras and floppy disks once used to store computer content, which were displaced by smaller memory devices with larger capacity and by cloud storage.

Panasonic Corp withdrew from making VCRs several years ago, making Funai the only manufacturer.

Funai will continue selling VCRs through its subsidiary until inventory runs out and will provide maintenance services as long as it can, the company spokesman said.

Videotapes can still be converted using VHS-DVD recorder-players made by other, mostly Chinese, companies. Second hand products abound in Tokyo’s electronics district as well. But a time may come when all such options also disappear.

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