By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Harris Blackwood: The disappearance of inventions from a short time back
Placeholder Image

I have been on the planet long enough to see some things come and go.

Some of those I’m really happy about, such as leisure suits and really wide ties. Some are still around, such as “The Clapper,” but I’ve never owned one.

I wasn’t around for the debut of the 45-rpm record, but I sadly watched its demise. I cued up many a record on turntables, spinning them to the start of the music and then back a quarter turn to give it time to get up to speed.

I was not around for the invention of the dial phone, but I saw it go away. I miss the notion of a phone that was so heavy it could be used as a weapon.

I saw the debut of shag carpeting. I even owned a shag rake to make all the yarn go in the same direction. I don’t necessarily miss shag carpet, but it is gone nonetheless.

We owned an 8-millimeter movie camera. It needed four large flood bulbs to film inside. I remember watching silent home movies with people shading their eyes with their hands.

My mother, in a Vanna White move, would point out things such as our Christmas tree. She was saying something, but we had no way to hear it. She was also blinking her eyes from the blinding floodlights.

Then came the VCR and it’s later companion the video camera. We bought one and took a while to pay it off. I’ve seen them lately for less than $50.

Some folks had two VCRs and would make copies of movies recorded from television. Sometimes they tried to stop the tape during commercials and would forget to start recording when the show resumed. It made for interesting viewing.

Now, it appears the VCR is about to disappear. The one last company making the old recorder says it will soon stop. I don’t know what to make of that.

Folks now have a digital video recorder that records programs onto a storage drive. Since it is digital, it converts the picture into ones and zeros. I have some home videos on VCR that would require more zeros than ones.

We had a neighbor who took his family on vacations to places such as Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon. He took slides and invited us over to see the images of the family vacation on a screen in the living room. It was an exciting evening.

Kodak, which is not the company it used to be, stopped making Kodachrome — it’s slide film — a few years ago. If you’re listening to your best of Paul Simon vinyl album, you will have to explain to your children what he meant when he begged mama not to take away his Kodachrome. You will also have to explain that black disc with grooves on it. I don’t know whatever happened to that man or his vast collection of tourist slides.

When the MTV cable channel debuted Aug. 1, 1981, the first song they played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. I don’t know if the demise of the VCR means the video star is also gone or has just morphed into ones and zeros.

I still own a VCR, although it is not hooked up and still have a collection of tapes. I don’t know what will happen to them. We’ll just have to hold the phone and find out.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on