Thousands of Hours to Go

Dearest Rachel –

I went through three VCRs trying to figure out what was going wrong.

I put them up in the closet after each one in its turn couldn’t come out with a decent picture. I suppose that, on the bright side, I’ve cleared the TV table in the bedroom for other things – whatever they might be in the future.

It turned out that the reason there was no adequate picture was because I shouldn’t have plugged the connection in all the way.

If you look closely in this picture, you’ll see that the plug is sticking out by about three or four millimeters, I’m just going to say that this made no sense to me at all, but whatever works, I suppose. It would be just the sort of jerry-rigging you and your dad would have appreciated.

I think I’m gonna have to go back and explain this to you. Let me just hit the rewind button for a moment.

After converting all of he mini DV cassette tapes from the camcorder, I was afraid that I had run out of footage to work with. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. On the other hand, most of what we still had wasn’t footage of us, but rather footage recorded by us – or, more to the point, by you.

You were the one who knew how to run the VCRs. I guess it’s one of those secondary losses they were talking about on Saturday. Most of that was out of necessity; you were always the one more interested in recording television shows to watch later, for the most part. Yeah, I had my shows as well, but maybe from this distance, I’m not as broken up about not having them on hand to watch anymore.

Be that as it may, as we’ve been going through the house, Jan and I have found literally hundreds of tapes, containing quite likely thousands of hours of footage.

This is just one box of probably a dozen or two. Some smaller, most much larger, but the point is, we have a lot more tapes where these came from.

And now I have this tiny little converter box that theoretically, I can run a VCR through, and record everything digitally to keep in a more permanent form.

But just popping one of these things into the VCR reminds me just what a Herculean – or would it be Sisyphean? – task this is going to be. Six hours of what to me looks like fairly random programming – in this case, a couple of ‘world’s funniest animal’-type show followed by a Hallmark classic film (‘Fallen Angel’ – Does it ring a bell wing you at all, pardon the pun?) and some local PBS show about McHenry County and the history of its various towns – leaves me wondering why am bothering to do this. After all, like with this blog, it’s not like you’re here to watch it. And Lord knows why you decided to keep it.

Although, to be fair, at this point some of these might be considered to have a certain… historical(?) significance. Considering the occasional YouTube videos I’ve seen of old commercials, and people watching old commercials, your connection might well hold an absolute treasure trove of old curiosities like that.

And at least some of the shows – particularly your beloved Doctor Who – we already have in digital form, so I don’t have to go through all of this. But that’s just one show out of a fairly vast pile, albeit a one that accounts for a number of tapes, so… there’s that.

The thing is, you and the VCR go way back. Again, this is your story and not mine – I’m only telling it from your secondhand recollections, so I can’t guarantee its accuracy, but there’s no one around to contradict me anymore – but the way I heard you tell it, your parents opened an account with your local bank. Apparently it was a substantial deposit that they made, and being back in the days when banks gave these kind of premiums, they offered a choice of three fairly expensive appliances: a microwave, a VCR, and one other item that escapes me (it may have been a television, but I won’t swear to it). You lobbied hard for them to choose the VCR – this was really early in the 80s, when these were expensive novelties – and they acquiesced to you. Since they were so technophobic, it was up to you to hook it up, and show them how it worked.

Which you did, taking to the new technology like a duck to water. You even made something of a convert of your father, as he eventually invested in a whole camcorder system – which I’m afraid I donated to Goodwill a month or two ago. Let’s face it, it’s outdated technology at this point. That does mean that somewhere amongst all this stuff there are a fair number of home videos to go through and digitize yet.

But those are needles in amongst a fairly vast haystack. I’ll do what I can as I sift through the hay, but I admit, I’m not sure if what I’m doing serves any purpose other than to keep myself occupied.

It was one thing when, a year ago, we were going through your parents collection of vinyl albums. I was running them through my turntable, and editing them using Adobe Audition to take out the pops, clicks and skips. That served the twofold purpose of giving me practice in the Creative Cloud, while also converting the music that we might eventually listen to again. But now, with you no longer here to listen to that music, the effort seems rather pointless in retrospect. And while that could be understood at the time – we didn’t know what was coming in so near of future – going through all this video, I’m already lacking that second purpose. We’ll never bother to watch these things, and what little I might would be tinged with such sad regret as to make this so much more painful than it might be worth.

At the same time, converting this to digital format will allow me in good conscience to store these tapes in a much more remote part of the house – put them in a bin, and stick them in the crawlspace, rather than having them clutter up the basement. So there’s that. I can’t find it in my heart to simply throw them out, even though I probably should. I’m afraid you’ve taught me too well.

Anyway, honey, as always, wish me luck. I dare say I’m going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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