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video recorder vcrThe VCR: A Journey to the Center of Another Earth
by Marjorie Dorfman

Why is it that I can never operate my VCR properly? Do you have the same problem? Do you want to join that underground club that secretly meets and programs your VCR when friends and relatives cannot see you? If so, read on and learn to laugh at that which cannot be conquered.

A video cassette recorder is a terrible thing to waste.     The Dorfman Archives (sort of)

Does anyone out there recall an old television commercial, the setting of which was in front of a glass door marked "blood bank?" A darkly cloaked, menacing figure lurked outside, whispering through the screen about how wonderful his new VCR was because sometimes he just couldn’t be at home at night to watch his favorite shows. I surmised, (incorrectly as things turned out) that if Dracula and his vampire friends could learn to operate a VCR, then so could yours truly. I am sure that most people have long since come to terms with the VCRs that live in their homes; understanding their operation, maintenance and various idiosyncrasies. I do, however, know of one person who has been unable to peacefully co-exist with her VCRs and that person is me!

When the VCR became popular in the 1970s, it marked one of the most important events in the history of television because it gave viewers control over what they could watch on their own TVs. (That was the plan anyway.) When one considers that before the VCR there was no such thing as a video store and that now there is one on nearly every corner in every city in the United States, the impact of the VCR really hits upside the head! I did start out, (like most people on their way to hell), with the best of intentions. I went to the appliance store and asked the salesman to help me select a VCR so simple that an idiot could operate it. I soon became the only one on my block who could operate their own VCR, but my celebrity was short-lived and my victory ever so hollow. After mastering a few basic techniques, it’s been downhill ever since. As far as I am concerned, the command "execute" should refer to the engineers who designed the damn machine and not be limited to instructions for its users!

That stupid manual is always there in my face, taunting, daring me to do the right thing. The problem is that on the very first rung of the "how to" ladder, I am already significantly behind the rest of the class. Except for the final command to "plug in the VCR", I am lost in instructional space. I love the helpful diagrams, referring to ANTS IN, RF OUT, RF co-axials and AV cables. I don’t know what the hell they are talking about and I probably never will. Input and output can go (with my blessing) either away with the next wind or straight to where the sun doesn’t shine! My manual claims to explain each feature. My manual lies.

The menus are a problem too. They mislead and torment because they don’t follow the path of one from column A and one from Column B, which a lifetime of Chinese take-out food has taught me to focus on. It’s just all so-o-o complicated! First, I must decide in which language I wish to misunderstand my directions. My choices are English, Spanish or French. (I should pick one that I am not familiar with. Maybe then I’ll be able to better comprehend what they are trying to tell me!) Even after I have made my decision, I’m still not sure which door will open and what unwanted prize I might have won in the process. (I’d probably fare better, or at least just as well, with Monty Hall on "Let’s Make A Deal.")

humor recorder VCRA word of warning here. Once the VCR is plugged in, a false sense of security may ensue. Everything will seem fine until you dare to go beyond where fools rush in and angels fear to tread. If you wish to add or delete channels, proceed at your own risk. Some changes are beyond our control, like a sledgehammer smashing the machine into a million pieces in a desperate plea for a little respect. Acts of God have no place in the world of the VCR. Whenever there’s a storm in my area, I can never quite reset the clock correctly. My two VCRs tell two different times. I can’t trust either one of them as they both have a history of lying to me. I dread the change in seasons as well, for that means Daylight Savings Time and the release of the can of worms that now sits quietly in my living room next to the television.

The manual devotes much time to three major sources of difficulty; timer recording, taping and playback, and last but not least, the bane of my existence, the remote. In the case of timer recordings, that VCR plus feature seems easy and convenient, but appearances, like most hand grenades, can be deceiving. The manual states that all one has to do is to plug in the numbers assigned to each program. Well, I have recorded many a program that way and almost as many times gotten something completely different. This is never serendipitous or in any way like the discovery of penicillin. Sometimes a program might be pre-empted, but usually I get things like static, phone sex commercials (when filming late at night) and sometimes even the last ten minutes of an old Charlie Chan mystery! The only thing more confusing and more complicated than using one VCR for timer recordings is using two of them; one for recording and one for playback. Someone in this room is a glutton for punishment.

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tech humor quotes
"Technology has enabled man to gain control over everything except technology."

"Never trust a computer that you can't throw out the window."
Steve Wozniak

Don't miss this excellent book:

Home VCR Repair

Illustrated by Richard C. Wilkins and Vicki Wilkins

Home VCR Repair

Learn how to diagnose and fix your own VCR without fuss or the need for costly equipment. This book is full of easy to follow instructions and illustrations.

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