Japanese electronics firm pulls plug on world's last video recorder

Japanese electronics maker Funai Electric is pulling the plug on the world's last video cassette recorder.

The Japanese electronics company last year produced 750,000 VCRs  in 2000 it made 15 million. Picture: AP
The Japanese electronics company last year produced 750,000 VCRs  in 2000 it made 15 million. Picture: AP

A company spokesman said yesterday that production will end sometime this month.

He said the company wanted to continue production to meet customer requests, but cannot because key component makers are pulling out due to shrinking demand for VCRs.

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Many families and libraries have content stored in the VHS format and want to convert the tapes to DVD. They can do so using VHS/DVD converters, known as “combos” in Japan. Funai will be rolling out such products later this month, the spokesman said.

Funai’s VCR factory, which is in China, is off-limits to media coverage for security reasons because of other products made at the same plant. Funai began making videotape players in 1983, and videotape recorders in 1985. The company says they were among its all-time hit products.

Last year, Funai made 750,000 VHS machines that played or recorded cassette tapes. In 2000, it made 15 million of them – 70 per cent for the US market, according to the company, based in Osaka, central Japan.

Panasonic withdrew from making VCRs several years ago, leaving Funai as the only manufacturer.

Funai will continue selling VCRs through its subsidiary until stocks run out and will provide maintenance services as long as it can, the company spokesman said.

Owners of VCRs are not as emotionally attached to their machines as are owners of Sony Corp’s discontinued robotic dog Aibo, or the Boombox portable cassette player, with its deeply resonating speakers and cool designs, said Nobuyuki Norimatsu, nicknamed “Aibo doctor,” of A-Fun, a company of engineers who do repairs for discontinued electronics goods.

Still, many VCR owners want to dub their videos by themselves, rather than sending them to outside companies, because the content is so personal, he said. “To give up on keeping such records is like denying the history of humankind,” said Norimatsu.

“Production ending is going to present problems for some people.”