You may not have seen a VCR lately because the technology has been outdate for two decades.

Purdue phasing long outdated VCRs out of classrooms

Two decades after the introduction of the DVD, the most surprising thing about the collection of VHS tapes in Stewart Center’s HSSE Library probably isn’t that 2,300 remain, but that they still get checked out from time to time.

Over the last several semesters, VHS tapes have been checked out by students and faculty even as the video tape’s successor, the DVD, is slowly losing its own popularity to online video streaming services.

But the VHS tape’s future is about to become a thing of the past, like the VCR itself, on Purdue’s campus, says Byron Reed, director of learning spaces for ITaP. Current plans call for slowly eliminating VCRs from classrooms, removing the outdated technology as it breaks, or not replacing it as a classroom’s technology is upgraded to digital systems, such as Blu-Ray.

“The simplest reason is that they don’t make VCRs anymore,” says Reed, citing news reports from 2016 that the last manufacturer of the device planned to stop production. “There’s also the question of how much they are being used. We know it’s not much and there is also the additional cost for us to maintain these aging devices.”

Although the decline of the VCR and VHS tapes has been ongoing since the late 1990s, the technology is still part of the Purdue Libraries’ collection for one reason: copyrights.

“For our more popular material, we have tried to find replacements of VHS tapes on DVD or in a streaming format, but sometimes VHS is the only format that exists,” says Robert Freeman, associate professor of libraries.

Freeman says Purdue Libraries is working on identifying which items have a copyright that allows for transfer to a modern format, and which ones will require purchasing a new digital friendly copy – if such a copy can be found. Because it’s likely replacements won’t be found for some VHS tapes, he says the libraries probably will continue to provide VCRs for as long as possible inside the HSSE Library.

“Our plan is to keep at least two around, so that people needing to access the videos will at least have that option,” Freeman says.

VHS on library shelf

Another option the library has available is access to the streaming service Kanopy, which provides access online to thousands of movies, documentaries and educational films. The service is free for all Purdue students, faculty and staff.

“It’s sort of a Netflix for academic libraries,” Freeman says.

For faculty who still rely on VCRs in class, Reed says efforts will be made to provide the machines for the next few semesters, but he can’t guarantee they will be available in all classrooms.

Faculty interested in preserving their rare or hard-to-replace VHS tapes in a digital format can contact Donna Ferullo, director of Purdue’s copyright office, to ask questions about possible exceptions to copying some materials.

For faculty and staff who have self-produced videos – whether footage from a field trial or old course assignments – ITaP’s Video and Multimedia Production Services can provide VHS to DVD conversions for the price of $5 a video. To learn more contact Ed Dunn via email at dunn@purdue.edu.

***Reminder: ITaP to also remove acetate projectors from classrooms this summer. To learn more, click here. ***

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998, steph103@purdue.edu

Last updated: March 31, 2017

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by ITaP

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact ITaP at itap@purdue.edu.