Photo Ian Waldie Getty Images

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images

VCRs, funeral, and a new strawberry transplanter

The VCR is dead – toast. It’s time for the funeral. The videocassette recorder, for those old enough to remember this incredible technological innovation born almost 60 years ago, is dead. R.I.P.

The last company to make the VCR – Funai – removed the VCR’s life support last month, technology that likely led the way to modern tech including video cameras, smartphones, and MP3 files.

My first experience with a VCR was at home in the 1980s. Setting up the large clunker box included opening the top panel to slowly turn the white switches by hand to tune in the very few available TV channels. Then I plopped down in my La-Z-Boy, with the wired VCR remote in hand, to control my TV-viewing experience. A slice of heaven.

After VCRs hit the market, I went to a Meijer grocery store to visit its just opened video department where movies were for sale (a first). My interest in buying a movie was short lived due to its cost - $89.99 which was nearly half of my bi-monthly income. Today’s cost equivalent would be nearly $500.

I was fortunate in my early farm broadcasting career to work with the VHS VCR format from JVC and Betamax I, II, and III by Sony. The Betamax picture was superior to VHS but the industry wrongfully accepted VHS as the standard.

Climb aboard the technology time machine to today where MP3 files and iTunes largely rule the audio roost. Technology has shifted from bulky, expensive VHS tapes to a cloud server holding terabytes of entertainment for a fraction of the cost.

The same tech shift in agricultural technology has occurred from the days of picking cotton by hand to mechanized pickers to module builders; and from horse-drawn plows to GPS-guided tractors with enough horsey power to pull a house for miles.

The latest tech development in fruit agriculture stands to benefit U.S. strawberry growers – a mechanized transplanter. The recent leap to a mechanical transplanter by the Driscoll’s berry company was largely based on a continued shortage of skilled labor, rising labor costs, and a machine which can more accurately plant a plug, increasing its plant health and yield.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and as a guy I love gadgets. Does your home still have a VCR? Mine does. Good memories are hard to let go.

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