Up till now, I’ve focused on cool things I’ve found on old videotapes. Now it’s time to look a bit on the old electronics side. I must apologize in advance if my pictures aren’t the greatest. For some reason, it’s a total pain-in-the-ass to get a decent VCR pic.
One of my hobbies that seems strange to some people is that I love collecting old VCRs. I think the fact I’ve gone through so many of them over the years has given me a weird affinity for them. Everytime I’m at a thrift store or the like and come across a unit that appeals to me and is a decent price, I pretty much have to buy it. Case in point: The two VCRs we’ll look at now.
This first one I picked up several weeks ago for $10. Ten bucks is just a bit more than I like to pay for an untested unit, but I have no regrets. It’s not like it was a ton of money. Besides, I figured, even if it didn’t work, I’d rather have it in my hands than in a landfill somewhere,
It’s an RCA VMT395 HQ VHS VCR. Sucker even has Dolby stereo with the capability for noise reduction. It came with the original remote, but the thing was filthy enough that I could never in good conscience use it, even after a cleaning. There’s no date anywhere on the machine, but a bit of research indicates that it comes from 1986 or somewhere around that time-frame.
Look at that, audio levels. When’s the last time VCRs came with that? Given that and the number of functions this fella has leads me to believe that this may have been a relatively high-end unit for the time. I found a mega high-end unit for $5 a few months back (and which has become my all-time favorite VCR find for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that it performs beautifully and the number of functions it features is staggering), and while this RCA doesn’t feature as many functions as that one, it still does waaaay more than the cheapo VCRs being sold nowadays.
At the store where I found it, I grabbed a random VHS tape (one ostensibly used for testing) and tried out everything I could without hooking the unit up, and it seemed to play, rewind, fast forward, eject, etc. without issue. When I got it home, it did indeed work, although something in the store I didn’t notice was that while it rewound and such, it only did so with a fair bit of internal grinding.
When I tried the machine out again last week, it was no longer working properly, however. It didn’t eat any tapes, but it won’t actually play them, either. Oh well, still a pretty cool VCR.
This next machine I actually picked up yesterday, and I like it even more than the RCA.
It’s a General Electric 9-7675 3-Head HQ VHS VCR from 1987, also with Dolby stereo. I scored this sucker for $5, which is really my preferred amount to pay for untested VCRs. Well, I did test another random tape in it (should it have eaten the tape, I would have been out of one whole dollar), and this one seemed to work flawlessly. That doesn’t mean anything until you get it home and actually hook it up, of course.
Unlike the RCA, this one works like a champ. Really, I didn’t have any problems in any way. I didn’t try recording anything, but since I never buy old VCRs to record, that doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.
This one doesn’t seem to be as relatively high-end as the RCA, though it still does more than the bare-minimum machines sold within the last several years. The great thing about many (but not all) VCRs manufactured in the late-70’s, throughout the 1980’s, and even into the early-90’s is that they were built to last. I’ve had fairly good luck finding working units, and even units that don’t work are often worth having repaired (should I feel the need to do so).
By the mid-90’s or so, these things were being manufactured so cheaply that you were almost better off junking a dead machine and just buying a whole new one. My personal indicator of a cheaply made VCR? Plastic casing. I almost always pass those up. There have been exceptions, but that’s my personal rule of thumb.
This GE though? Nice solid metal casing, the way it should be. I think my biggest surprise regarding this unit (besides the fact that it works so incredibly well) is actually that it’s a GE, which is a manufacturer I’ve never really had any problems, but not one I’ve ever paid much attention to as far as VCRs go. Zenith, RCA, Panasonic, Sony, sure, but GE for some reason I always sort of associated with lower-end/cheap models.
Maybe that was unfair, or maybe I just lucked out and found a well-maintained machine. I couldn’t say one way or the other. All I know is that the GE was $5 well, well spent.