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VHS era is winding down – Los Angeles Times

The last big supplier of the tapes is ditching the format, ending the long fade-out of a product that ushered in the home theater. Pop culture is finally hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once-ubiquitous home-video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes.

“It’s dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt,” said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. “I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I’m done. Anything left in warehouse we’ll just give away or throw away.”

Goodbye VCR, while your format is over – I still see years of projects with you ahead. Each week I see a dozen VCRs tossed in the trash in NYC. Sometimes I rescue some of them, other times I just wish I had more time to do things with them. Here are some projects you can do with an old VCR as well as the old tapes. If you have others, post them up in the comments. We’ll start out with the VCR cat feeder projects and then move on to other fun ones, a VCR has gears, motors and precision electronics – a treasure trove for a maker.


VCR Cat Feeder on MAKE: television
A MAKE: magazine favorite! Here’s a quick peek at John Park demonstrating how to use a motor from an old VCR and use it to drive an automated cat feeder.


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VCR Cat Feeder
Liberate a motor from an old VHS deck, attach it to a food chopper, and program the deck’s recording timer to fill Fluffy’s bowl on schedule. Voila! Your own programmable pet food dispenser.


Vfd Amp
VCR display turned amplifier
5Volt turned an old VCR’s vacuum fluorescent display into a headphone amp, here writes – “VFDs are common on VCRs. I have a few of them I took from some broken VCRs. Last night I was working on how I could use them as vacuum triodes. I don’t have much experience with real vacuum tubes so I had to invent some, possibly wrong, arrangements, but I finally got something”.


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Control your VCR with a text message
Frisnit shows you how to control a VCR with SMS (cell phone) – “Imagine it, it’s 3:15 on a weekday afternoon and you’ve just realised you’ve forgotten to set the video to tape ‘Pet Rescue’. Usually you would be condemned to an afternoon of misery and disappointment, knowing you had no heartwarming cute animal stories to come home to. But not any more. Below I describe a simple interface between a T28 mobile phone (ME) and Matsui VX770 VCR to allow remote recording of programmes.”


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Make PCR out of a VCR – The VCRVO
North writes in I decided gut the VCR and use it as a computer case. This would replace the functionality of the DVD player and video recorder with one unit that looks more like a VCR than a computer (thus keeping the wife happy). My initial goal was to get Freevo running on it, so during the build I affectionately referred to it as my “VCRVO” project. Here are the steps I took..


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Made – Solarroller, bot from from junk parts.. VCR…
The prolific Maker family’ – Thethompsonfive writes in with the solarroller bot built from MAKE 06… – “Here it is, my completed Solarroller from Make #6. I got the parts bag from Solarbotics and scavenged a VCR from someone I work with. I’ve built a bunch of robot kits in the past, but I have to say that starting out with a pile of junk and some components and getting a working robot out of it brings a much greater sense of accomplishment than any of them ever did. “


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HOW TO – Make a wind powered LED out of a VCR
Charles was inspired by all of the nonsense about the format wars lately, and after breathing a sigh of relief that the HD-DVD Blue-Ray fiasco ended he was reminded of the VHS and Betamax war of yesteryear. It occurred to him that he still had an old VCR in his basement and was wondering what to do with it… It turns out that you can make some pretty cool gadgets from the innards of a VCR. So, he posted a tutorial about how to make a wind powered LED out of a VCR.


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DIY Video tape encoding station – Ryan made a video tape encoding station setup using some old gear he had laying around and a Neuros MP4 Recorder. He’s recording the tapes at 320 x 240 at super fine quality and the files produced are beautiful. As a bonus they play perfectly without conversion on both Zunes and iPods.


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Sonic Fabric – Alyce Santoro, creator of sonic fabric, has demonstrated her amazing 50% cotton, 50% audio tape creations to an already aurally stimulated dorkbot audience. Alyce found she could take recycled 1/8th inch audio tape and place it directly into a weaving loom to create a flexible yet strong blend of tape and fiber that amazingly still holds its magnetic properties once woven. With this sonic fabric, she has created dresses, handbags, and other clothing which all retain their magnetic audio qualities. She was also able to actually play for us some of the fabric using a hacked up portable tape player. The audio sounds more like record scratching as the tape head is moved across it, but that’s because of the random nature the tape enters the weave of the fabric. She’s looking at possibly recording onto the fabric after it has been woven to produce recognizable audio… perhaps music or vocal recordings or just sections of fabric that produce certain tones. I think VCR tapes could potentially be used for an application like this.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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