Thomas Harpole

4 Billion Tapes

Let’s go back to 1998 or 2001.

Down in the basement of every American family were one to three mega-shelves, about eight, nine feet high, four feet wide. They would span the entire wall. A monster library of VHS tapes.

Sometimes it took up half the room. Cinderblocks and floor-to-ceiling columns of tapes.

Let’s say each American family had about 50 VHS tapes.

In the United States, there are roughly 82 million single family homes.

We’re talking roughly 4 billion VHS tapes existed at one point in the 90s in America alone. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video had another 30 million tapes on their shelves, eventually liquidating them.

My question today is: What the hell happened to all of those tapes?

Did people just throw them away?

Was there a buyback program?

My understanding was families would sell them at garage sales to other people.

Have the tapes been intentionally destroyed? The Law of Conservation of Mass, that matter cannot be created or destroyed, seems to leave me even more confused regarding this.

Were they buried in the earth at landfills? Are there billions of plastic fossils beneath us that someone will dig up one day, wondering what the heck we were watching?

Perhaps you still have a few ones you couldn’t get rid of.

You know, Mighty Ducks D3.

Angels in the Outfield.

Homeward Bound.

Home Alone 1, 2, 3.

Colorado Avalanche: 2001 Stanley Cup Highlights.

I believe that at one point some all-powerful divine being sort of waved their hand over the earth and the VHS tapes of this world were no more.

Next up is DVDs. Soon they’ll be gone too. And then Blu-Ray. Somehow HD-DVDs (remember that?) vanished within weeks of their release.

Our technology is disappearing as fast as it is innovating. Soon, we will all be dust of the earth, our final resting place may very well be next to a copy of The Emperor’s New Groove. I guess things could be worse.