Recorded History

30 Aug

August 30, 2016

I grew up in the days before VCR’s were common. And that really dates me since a lot of my younger readers who have TiVo or any kind of digital recorders may never have had a VCR. But at one point it just wasn’t common to have any kind of home television recording device. They existed in the 70’s but they weren’t cheap or in every home.

As a kid, I had a black + white TV in my bedroom, and that dates me too. Even then B+W TV’s were on the way out and color sets were soon all you’d find. It was an old set.

This was around 1979 or so. I was young and I was just becoming a Star Trek fan. (How did that happen? Read here.) Problem was, the show aired on WPIX channel 11 late at night. I’m not sure, but it aired at 11:00 or even later, and for a kid like me, that was past my bedtime. Even though there was a  TV right near my bed, I knew Mom or Dad would see the light under my door or hear the sound so watching the show wasn’t an option. But I came up with a work around.

Dad had a portable cassette recorder and I put it next to the TV speaker, turned down the sound, and adjusted the picture so the screen was all black. That way I recorded the Trek audio and eventually I had three or four shows in my meager collection, audio only. I’d listen to them late at night.

See how old it is? It has a leather case and a carry strap!

See how old it is? It has a leather case and a carry strap!

Flash forward to today. DVD, Netflix, Hulu, and more. If you want to see (let alone hear) an episode of Star Trek it is at your fingertips. And the other night I put on Netflix and found a particular episode of Star Trek, one I haven’t seen in a few years, at least.

Kirk, Spock and Co. beam down to a planet where Spock gets infected by alien spores and his emotions are released. He falls in love and refuses to leave the planet. It’s not a bad episode but certainly not one of the best. Middle of the road, I’d say. It’s memorable for Spock falling in love but also for McCoy speaking in a slow Southern drawl.


But it is very special to me since it was one of the shows I taped on that old recorder of Dad’s. Both the recorder and the tape are long, long gone. So just for the heck of it, to relive some of my youth, late at night I after I got into bed the other night I took out my tablet and played This Side of Paradise. Without the picture. Just the audio. The same way I listened to this episode back in the late 70’s.

It isn’t a great line, and not a memorable piece of dialogue, but I would be lying if I didn’t get a thrill hearing the head of the planet’s lost colony introduce himself to Jim Kirk.

this side of paradise new caption

I have a clear and distinct memory of lying in my childhood bed in my family’s old apartment listening to that scene. And for the next 50 minutes or so, while I may have been lying in my 2016 bed, I was also lying in my 1979 bed, in my 1979 home, and I felt every bit the kid I was then.

I suppose there’s a point here about technology, or childhood, or whatever you may have read into this. For me, the only point is that it’s a damn shame I had to grow up.



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6 Responses to “Recorded History”

  1. Matt Cowan August 30, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    I remember when we first got a VCR for Christmas one year, my sister bought a bunch of old black and white Alfred Hitchcock movies to watch (they were old even then). The 39 Steps was my favorite.


    • bmj2k August 30, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      First videotape I ever watched was Wrestlemania III, at my grandmother’s house. (That was 1987. I was pretty late to the VCR party.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mac of BIOnighT August 31, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

    This made my eyes water a little… I used to record the old Japanese cartoon on audiocassette (’78/’79/’80), and occasionally film s, too. I liked that so much that even when I finally got a VCR, many years later, I recorded the videocassettes on audiocassettes and listened to them o__O This post on your blog is also a very strange coincidence, as I’ve been thinking about this for the past three weeks or so and was about to record my Alien dvd on audio as I wanted to live that experience again (and by the way, Alien is a magnificent film, but you should also experience the journey through it as audio only, too. It is just incredibly good!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • bmj2k August 31, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

      Alien is indeed a magnificent film. When it came out I was too young to see it but just the commercials scared me.


  3. Meow? September 12, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

    A few years ago, when I was first moving out on my own, I found a box of old cassette tapes I had forgotten about. In middle school I had an obsessive habit of recording a block of shows, even though now I can’t stand watching any of them. It was kind of fun to put one on and see it all intact, commercials and all. I suppose it is either some fantasy of nostalgia, or maybe just some tangible reminder of that awkward time. Either way it was an interesting stroll….

    Liked by 1 person

    • bmj2k September 13, 2016 at 12:09 am #

      I used to videotape everything. Old moves, TV shows, didn’t matter. I had hundreds of them at one point. I still have a few and you are so right about the nostalgia.


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