Twenty five years ago today, I walked into the old Highland Superstore on Michigan Avenue in the west end of Dearborn. A little while later, I walked out with my first color television set and my first video cassette recorder.
The VCR is long gone, replaced by a DVD/VHS player and a newer VCR, but the television has survived. This MGA CS-1946 model celebrates its 25th birthday today, with its picture and sound as good as the day I bought it.
It seems a little strange to celebrate the 25th birthday of a television set, but it has been the messenger for countless hours of entertaining and stimulating viewing.
That TV watching has included many movies, including VHS and DVD presentations of films that I first enjoyed at the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre.
I was very excited back in 1989 to join the TV/VCR crowd. My very first movie was the poignant science fiction adventure Cocoon. I was actually watching a movie of my own choosing in my own home.
Soon I was making steady trips to the Blockbuster stores to explore the wide range of home entertainment options that I now had. I had just started regularly attending the Detroit Film Theatre, so I paid close attention to the foreign language section.
I remember several times renting a copy of Lola Montès from a Blockbuster store on Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights. Even in that small format, its dramatic widescreen power impressed me.
During the summer of 1989, I remember renting other movies, helping me to discover and rediscover films that I had only read about or seen many years before in a theater or on regular television.
I also started taping shows, including every minute of the Detroit Pistons’ first NBA championship in June 1989. I just finished my annual spring cleaning, and the Maybe Someday category of items in my basement includes a big box of videotapes that I hope to watch again (or, I confess, for the first time).
The purchase of the television and VCR in 1989 was also the first time I used a credit card, and unfortunately not my last. All I’ll say about that is that it’s possible to spend a lot of money with a credit card, and also possible to get rid of credit card debt, if you’re willing to watch your savings drop dramatically.
The 19-inch MGA television cost me $337 and the Magnavox VR-9722 VCR was $299.98. Today at Best Buy that kind of money would buy me a 32-inch Samsung high definition television and almost any of the regular DVD or DVD/VCR players that Best Buy sells.
The passage of time since May 1989 has seen many changes in the home video industry. Highland Superstores have been gone for a long time, replaced mainly by Best Buy. Most Blockbuster stores have closed, as consumers have moved towards on-demand services that deliver through cable stations, the computer, and the mail.
In the last year, I’ve gone with the minimum cable package, which includes much classic television and a good variety of old movies with commercials. If I want to see an uncut movie, I usually go to Amazon.com, the Warner Archive Instant service, a VHS tape, or a DVD.
Meanwhile, my old MGA TV set sits quietly in the corner, providing the same kind of friendly continuity as other items I’ve had for decades, like my chest of drawers and bed.
(Photo shows Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938) on the Movies TV Network.)
Copyright © 2014 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.