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From VCR to Streaming: How Our Viewing Has Changed for the Better!

by Ann Ferguson

For the longest time, the only way you could view the latest movies was by catching them while they were in theaters until TVs were invented. But even with TVs, you only watched what was programmed, and if you missed it, there was no chance to re-watch it.

Luckily, by the 70s, ways to record content for home use became possible and revolutionized home entertainment as we know it. Today, people can’t wrap their minds around waiting for the right time to watch their shows, with no way to pause or rewind, so they never miss a second — we have too many ways to view content!

But when you look back, it’s astonishing to see how much our technology has changed from physical VHSs to digital streaming — take a look!


Old VCR and VHS equipment

The first step in home entertainment was the invention of the VHS (Video Home System) and the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder) back in 1977, which was a real game-changer. For the first time, viewers could control their content instead of being subject to whatever is playing on the TV.

VHS tapes could play up to four hours of content, which meant you could record several episodes of your favorite TV show at once and binge-watch them when you had the time. But that also meant that once you were done, you had to record over those episodes for new content (unless you were a gazillionaire with oodles of space and money for multiple cassettes!).

But thankfully, studios started re-releasing their movies on VHS, opening the door for home theaters and video rental stores (remember, Blockbuster?).

Did You Know? Betamax had the video-recording technology first and featured better quality, but the price was too steep compared to much more affordable VCRs!


While you might’ve heard of VCRs before (or owned one before in another life), you might not have heard about LaserDisc. This was the format before DVDs and the first commercial optical disc storage medium patented in 1961. With a LaserDisc, you could instantly jump to any part of the movie instead of constantly fast-forwarding or rewinding. And the audio/video quality far surpassed any tape format!

While this format was super successful in Japan and more affluent areas of Southeast Asia, it couldn’t break into the American and European markets — and for a good reason! The discs were the size of a record, weighed half a pound each, and could only hold up to 60 minutes of content on either side, which meant flipping the disc in the middle of a movie! And they were loud from all that spinning, too! It’s no wonder these weren’t as popular as VHS and VCRs.

Did You Know? The last LaserDisc released was Bringing Out the Dead in 2000!


Woman perusing DVDs in rental store

Even though this format wasn’t as popular as VHS, the technology eventually paved the way for DVDs! Digital Versatile Discs, or DVDs, came from the rise of CD technology in the late 90s and could retain higher-quality content and extras. More and more DVDs featured menus, chapter selections, and plenty of behind-the-scenes extras like featured commentary and blooper reels!

This format didn’t officially take off until the early 2000s, but once it did, it meant no more dealing with rewinding cassettes or worn-out tapes! And thus, the time of VHS slowly faded out.


During the DVD heyday came the brief moment of HD DVDs released in 2006. HD DVDs were the response to high-definition TVs becoming more affordable and more prevalent in people’s homes — people wanted to watch their content in the higher quality they were used to.

Unfortunately, the problem with HD DVDs is that their scratch resistance was the same as DVDs, could only store up to 15GB of data, and were directly competing with Blu-rays! So, even though they initially had more available titles than Blu-ray, they weren’t as popular.

Did You Know? The Last Samurai, Million Dollar Baby, Serenity, and The Phantom of the Opera were the first available HD DVDs!


Closeup of Blu-ray disk

When Blu-rays came on the scene, they blew every other format out of the water with their high-quality content and expansive memory! Blu-rays were widely released in 2006 and quickly overtook HD DVDs since the technology was available in the latest gaming systems, making it easier to view the content.

And since Blu-ray discs were more durable on top of their 25GB available data, they were the premiere viewing format! They even had a brief moment of 3D movies you could watch at home!

Did You Know? The very first movies offered on Blu-ray were 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, Underworld: Evolution, xXx, and Twister!

Wonderful World of Streaming

Person casting streaming service from phone to TV

While Blu-rays seemed like the ultimate thing, the rise of streaming services is a total game-changer. Now, viewers have instant access to their entertainment wherever they are! Suddenly, platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV+, and several more took hold of the home video market, offering a more interactive viewing experience.

Within each platform, you can find personal recommendations based on your viewing habits, watchlists, casting from one device to another, voice commands, higher video quality, and multiple profiles for a single account. Add in the endless list of content and the ability to watch from any signed-in device like your TV, computer, phone, or tablet; it’s no wonder more and more viewers have more than one viewing subscription!

Time to Hit Play!

As you can see, home entertainment has come a long way, with several video technologies fighting for supremacy. And while it might seem like streaming is at the helm, there’s no denying the appeal of owning hard copies of your favorite shows and movies! But regardless of which format you favor, you need the best TV to see every riveting second of the action — and would you look at that, we have quite a selection for you to choose from at Toton’s TV!

So, if your current TV setup is too small, old, or doesn’t feature the best quality, you can find your upgrade with us! And if you have any questions, give us a call — our experts have the answer!