A very retro video future

It used to be easy to spot the death of a format. Cassette tape killed 8-track faster than Sarah Palin can drop a moose, while black and white telly w

It used to be easy to spot the death of a format. Cassette tape killed 8-track faster than Sarah Palin can drop a moose, while black and white telly was doomed the minute nature films popped up in colour.

Now the time has come for VHS. The LA Times reported this week that the last major distributor of video tapes, Distribution Video Audio Inc., had pushed its last shipment of VHS movies out the door, and Hollywood hasn't been releasing films on the format since 2006 (David Cronenberg's 'A History of Violence' for all you trivia buffs).

Despite this, rumours of the death of VHS have been slightly exaggerated. Millions of videotapes are still being sold in stores and online, and even players are flying out the door - a Toshiba VHS/DVD combi player is among Amazon.com's top 30 electronics sellers here in the USA.

The truth is that VHS had been around for so long, with such a large installed base and high penetration, that it won't really die for years - if ever.

Many users (and I'm thinking particularly of kids and older people here) simply don't care about upscaled High Def image quality, surround sound and extras - they just want a cheap, easy way to record and watch TV and movies.

A telling online survey just came out of Japan, still widely regarded to be a couple of years ahead of the US in terms of adopting new formats.

There, just 6.3 per cent of people claimed to own a Blu-ray player (including PS3s), while over 66 per cent have a DVD spinner - and a mighty 68 per cent who still use their VHS recorder.

So VHS seems to be a case of: be kind, fast forward.