The announcement that Wal-Mart will be dropping support for VHS to free up space for DVD must surely be one of the final nails in the coffin of the format, and has been a long time coming. Considering that I haven’t bought a VHS tape in five years and that was only because The Phantom Menace wasn’t set for a DVD release I’m strangely sad, because it’s like witnessing the passing of an old friend.
Nobody’s likely to argue that DVD is a superior format and that it’s not even in the same league at the HD-DVD formats, but neither DVD nor HD will be as big a revolution to home entertainment as the humble VHS was. Countless modern classics (some more “classic” than others) that risked fading into obscurity found life and an audience on VHS – horror like the Evil Dead series and An American Werewolf in London, comedy like Mallrats, and, of course, The Usual Suspects. None of those did well at the box office but thanks to home video they gained followings that are almost too big to even be considered “cult” anymore.
Anyone who’s worked in entertainment retail and has seen the relative numbers of DVDs and VHS in circulation knows that the format has been living on borrowed time for a while now, but now is the time to say goodbye to the old friend and continue moving on with our technology: it was nice knowing you.