The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Now is the time to copy your old VHS tapes to digital DVD media. The upcoming holiday season makes many of us stop to consider family documents, photographs, and videos. As we gather together for holiday events, many of us take new pictures, both still photographs and video. Over a period of many years, some of us have collected boxes of pictures and videos in whatever formats were available at the time.
One problem with stored videos in boxes is signal deterioration. For the remainder of this article, I will write "VHS videotapes," but the same is true of the 8mm and Hi8 videotapes that came along later. All of these tapes are recorded in an analog format, and the information recorded on the magnetic tape will deteriorate and become "noisy" over a period of years. This noise will appear as "snow flakes" that show up momentarily within the displayed video images. Colors may also fade.
As the signal deteriorates even more with passing years, the pictures eventually will become so weak that vertical synchronization is difficult to maintain; the displayed image will flicker and roll. After a few more years pass, the data recorded on the videotape becomes so weakened that the video is no longer watchable. Your videos of long-past family events will be lost to future generations.
The life expectancy of VHS videotapes varies widely, depending on the quality of the tape used, the heat and humidity of the storage location, the amount of stray electromagnetic fields in the storage location, and also how many times the tape is replayed. Every time an analog videotape is played, a bit more signal is lost.
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