This is the eighth in a series of articles about my recent quest to replace a broken VCR in this era of DVDs, DVRs, and other newfangled gadgets. Click here for the beginning of the series.
Just because I had difficulty finding a cable ready VCR that was the brand and style that I wanted, doesn’t mean that VCRs with tuners are really disappearing. So I decided to do a little survey of my own. On July 9, 2007 I visited web sites for the three major consumer-electronics retailer’s here in Indianapolis: HHGregg.com, BestBuy.com, and CircuitCity.com. The results can be seen in a table by clicking on this link.
H.H.Gregg did a pretty good job of being honest about which VCRs had tuners and which did not. On Best Buy’s web site they generally had images of the back of the VCR so you could tell whether or not it had coaxial RF cable inputs and outputs or just RCA jacks. CircuitCity.com generally has pretty good information with lots of really good user reviews but this time they had the least information of all. In some cases on particular models I had to go to the manufacturer’s web site and even then in a couple of cases I had to download and Adobe PDF file user manual to find out if it had a tuner or not.
One clever manual author suggested that if you needed a tuner for your VCR that you could hook your new VCR to an old VCR using AV cables and use your programmable tuner in the old VCR to record programs. Pretty clever idea and one that I may use myself someday but of course that resumes you still have an old VCR that works!
Although some of the models clearly were described as “tunerless”, one of the greatest bad euphemisms I’ve heard in a long time was one of the models which was described by the manufacturer as “tuner ready”. Apparently it meant that it was ready to be hooked up to in external tuner. That borders on deceptive advertising because it could be implied that it was ready to go with its own tuner. I laughed out loud when I read that one.
You will notice that the only VCRs that I found that had tuners in them had newer digital ATSC tuners. That was my clue that led me to discover the reason why the older tuners are being phased out.
In our next installment we will explain the difference between NTSC and ATSC and how the federal government is the culprit behind the disappearing tuners.