By YouTube’s calculations, this is the 57th anniversary of the VCR player and as to mark the date—because we all mark 57th anniversaries in a special way –YouTube has added a special icon to the bottom right of selected videos today. Click on it, and it will allow you to watch the video so they’ll look just as crappy as video did on your old VCR.
“One issue with VHS was always the video quality, or lack of it. Scrolling images, distortion and noise were the order of the day back in the early nineties, which is a stark contrast with YouTube’s streaming, 1080p HD video,” says the Website Redmond Pie.com today.
Maybe I have a fonder memory of my cheap VCRs, but I think the fuzzy video on YouTube’s creation is a little exaggerated. Then again, I may have a fuzzy memory of fuzzy video, and when I think of it, technology now comes at such a fast pace that it seems all but impossible to remember when some technology first happened.
But it is that speed on online video and ubiquity of YouTube that has changed not only communication, but commerce.
Rodney King was savagely beaten in 1991 after being stopped by Los Angeles police following a high speed car chase. A nearby resident with a home video camera videotaped the beating and took it to a TV station a few days later. What would have happened had it, instead, popped up on YouTube instantly? Maybe nothing much more than what did happen in 1991. The public and the press were outraged. But it wasn’t until the officers were generally exonerated more than a year later that Los Angeles erupted into racial violence.
Who knows how that Rodney King assault would have played out today? Or if it would have happened, as police and everybody else can now fairly depend that everything is being recorded by someone or something? Watch a big city newscast now and notice how unusual it isn’t to see security camera video of bodega assaults, not to mention more major crimes.
I was talking to the comedian and director David Steinberg recently, and he pointed out that comedians who once tried out new material, or were polishing the finished product at comedy clubs, now can’t do that very easily knowing their act may be on YouTube before the comedian gets home that night. A joke—even a good one—is spent once it’s widely exposed.
“Wikipedia tells us that the first VCR was the Ampex VRX-1000, launched in 1956. Early VCRs were enormous beasts that looked nothing like the compact VHS units many reading this will have grown up with. Okay, YouTube adding a videotape icon to its videos for a day is hardly earth-shattering news but it’s a nice nod from a leader in the current video landscape to one of its earliest ancestors,” says the Web site TheNextWeb.com.
If you want to see how YouTube’s salute to VHS works, you’ll have to find the icon on the videos where it’s been added. Here’s one that works, chosen just because it’s also a pretty good example of the sometimes-bewildering subject matter of YouTube fare.