The video age of football

Seldom has a new technology flared so brightly and died so quickly as video.

The race to develop a consumer-level video system was run in 1970s Japan, with JVC and their VHS eventually managing to overshadow Sony’s Betamax system, and by 1978 the first video players were available in the UK. Available, but far from affordable for all but the spoilt kids.

We finally got one for Christmas in 1986. I know that because I still have the Kodak E-180 tape that we first used. The first thing I ever recorded was Saint & Greavsie, closely followed by Football Focus – you see a theme developing? – when the ability to capture moving pictures off the telly box seemed like something out of Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century.

Now we were free from the vice-like control of the programme planners. If we wanted to watch A Hard Day’s Night more than once a decade, we could. And if we chose to rewind again and again that bit in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where Robert Redford undoes Katharine Ross’s blouse, then that was our choice. But apart from taking possession of favourite films and comedy essentials like Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones, video was all about football.

Whether painstakingly taping goals from the regional news, or building up a video library that could be measured in yards, it was an obsessive, and ultimately a pitifully pointless exercise.

The new century brought the DVD, so superior to videotape in every way that the VCR was almost instantly history.

They’re all in the garage now, in several boxes – the season highlights vids, even from crap seasons; the World Cup films narrated by Sean Connery; Danny Baker’s Own Goals and Gaffs, and inferior imitators; classic Cup Finals; the wonderful BBC Match of the Seventies… all of them as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

But I’m not throwing them out, oh no. One day, I’ll get a special machine where you link it up to your computer and convert them all into DVDs. One day.

This article is taken from the from the wonderful book Got, Not Got – The A-Z of lost football culture, treasures and pleasures by Derek Hammond & Gary Silke. More of the same can be found on their equally superb blog.

Tags: Danny Baker, Saint & Greavsie, VHS

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