It’s absolutely mind-boggling when you take the time to really think about how the video revolution of the 80s changed the face of American consumerism and culture so tremendously. Not only were there companies making a bundle from licensing and distributing the format and playback machines, but this revolution actually provided the potential to reciprocate a kind of success for the consumer, creating a myriad of business opportunities ranging from establishing their very own Mom & Pop rental store (Oh, how these were the days!) to enabling the armchair filmmaker to craft their very own shot-on-video movie, edit it at home and
have it distributed to be viewed by a video-craving populace; it was veritable new blood for a national economy, and an exciting and prosperous time for entertainment fiends everywhere.
What the future looked like in 1994... you know, for VCRs...
So, with this rapidly expanding super-culture, there had to be an informational hub the collective analog aficionado could tap to learn all about new flicks, new technologies and of course, new equipment to soup up their home viewing (and listening) experience. That guide through the burgeoning world of analog amazement was a print magazine called – yep, you guessed it: Video Magazine!
Surprisingly (or maybe not-so-surprisingly), there is very little information out there about this wildly informative and once gargantuan publication. This is one piece of history that’s not very well documented on the world weird web, which of course, makes it all the more of interest. Though I wasn’t able to do much research by the way of technology, I was able to track down a bunch of issues and go the classic route of reading the physical copies to gain all the info I craved.
Now, the copies I managed to procure are all from the early nineties, but I’m inclined to surmise that Video Magazine was first published all the way back in the early 80s. Brought into the market by a company called Reese Communications Inc., Video Magazine employed some of the top experts and consultants in the video field as their staff writers and would publish detail-oriented interviews with entertainment industry leaders, expounding some of the most informative stuff you’re likely to find about the real face of the video era. It was the expertise commingled with on-the-forefront topics that made this magazine the world’s biggest video publication.
A nifty page sample from the FEB 1994 issue!
So what exactly was inside this puppy? Saying a lot of stuff would be a gross understatement here. Video magazine, while mainly focused on the VHS enthusiast as readership, ran the gamut of coverage featuring alternate video systems (including the “cult” following of BETA!), hi-def audio systems and yes, even LaserDisc and up-and-coming video gaming. With a name like Video Magazine, it would be silly to ignore things like Atari 2600 and Odyssey2 , which were almost just as relevant when you talk about revolutionizing home entertainment. Video magazine even expanded their coverage into the nascent world of Interactive Television, and catered certain articles (and LOTS of advertisements) to the new breed of cable maniacs. The latter makes tons of sense, because if a magazine is predicated on a VCR-owning readership, you know these same folks are going to be taping TONS of stuff off of TV, and cable was the newest and hottest ticket for that kind of ride. Cable TV was showing everything from classics to documentaries to music videos. It was like a veritable smorgasbord of entertainment where you could use your VCR as a doggie bag.
As you can probably already tell, Video Magazine was just overflowing with insider knowledge, historical documentation, video and product reviews and even predictions for the future of video. Some of these predictions inevitably missed the mark, but others resonate with chilling accuracy. We even see some predictions about the “Information Super Highway” that we’ve all come to depend on. These, in particular, are some of the most amusing and interesting predictions in the publication as they are toying with an idea which expanded and sprawled in a way that would have seemed unfathomable then. It’s fun stuff. Oh, and get this: there was even a perforated section that you could rip open (or remove entirely!) that contained all those dirty, dirty video ads. What an idea!
Here, we have the "beaded curtain" section of Video Magazine!
Reading through Video Magazine is like taking a trip back in time to when the video was still the king of all kings in the home entertainment industry. In addition to everything I’ve mentioned before, Video Magazine’s pages will provide insight on things like desktop video editing, “video toasting” and video for the blind. However, the one thing that I find most nostalgic of all is the abundance of amazing ads that illustrate the market for the home video connoisseur, and show us how massive the market was, but also just how pricey being a vidiot could be. I've scanned some prime examples of those wonderful ads just below...
That's right: we DO accept Diner's Club!
It's Christmas in Camcorder Land! Yee-haw!
Hey, you guys like cable? So do we! Now buy stuff!
Too much groovy for one page - had to add this one!
You can pick up issues of Video Magazine through eBay for decent prices when they turn up, and I even found that there are some later issues available on Google Books. That’s pretty groovy, eh? However, being the physical media enthusiast that I am, I highly recommend picking up some actual issues of Video Magazine. Anything that induces a high-sensory feeling of time travel, you know Lunchmeat
is going to recommend it. Oh, and just 'cause I couldn't help myself, here's a rarely seen ad featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and a huge TV...
Man, what small yet amazing treasures lie dormant in forgotten physical media, huh? To see amazingly nostalgic stuff like this, Lunchmeat wholeheartedly encourages you to believe that digging through your local flea market, dirt mall or neighbor's yard sale is the absolute best way to go. Of course, we all know that by now, right? Damn skippy. Feed that VCR, Videovores. You know it's hungry!