Consumerism Geek

Unexpected spree

I’ve got a couple of days off work… happy dance, happy dance, nyah nyah. Actually it’s not really smugworthy, given I’m going to the dentist this morning.

On Sunday I unexpectedly went on a consumer electronics buying spree. First, the VCR started misbehaving. Tape playback fuzzy. Same with a couple of other tapes. Found the occasionally used head-cleaner tape, but the liquid bottle was empty. Ahh.. okay. Better get this fixed, because if Doctor Who couldn’t be taped for Isaac on Monday, bad things would happen.

So I zipped over to Dick Smith (with Adrian in tow; having just arrived back from London with my sister, he wanted to figure out how to get a prepaid SIM into his phone so he’d have an Australian number). Wandered around looking for a new head cleaning cassette. It was well-hidden, had to ask, but yes, they still stock them. (Oh great, now two days later I discover they have cleaning fluid on its own for a fifth the price of a cleaning cassette.)

Ooh, what’s that? Cheapie Teac DVD/CD/MP3/etc players… $99… I had been looking out for something like that, to replace my aging and undeniably kaput CD player. It had lasted 15 years, but had finally died. This could be a suitable replacement. So I grabbed one of those too. (Lucky I’m only using it for CDs and MP3s… as it’s region-locked, and apparently not hackable.)

Took the cleaning tape home, figured out how to open the damn cleaning fluid bottle, put it on the tape and… the VCR wouldn’t take it. It wouldn’t go in. Struggle for a bit, then try a normal tape. It wouldn’t take that either. So this had actually made it worse. Dammit, and I like Panasonic products, too. It’s only about 4 years old, and they’ve never given me problems before. My faith in them is now shaken.

I pondered if this was just the excuse I was looking for to buy a DVD recorder. But what about my huge stockpile of legacy VHS tapes? And the fact that DVD recorder prices are currently in free-fall mode? Wait six months and they’ll be better and heaps cheaper. Now is precisely the wrong time to buy unless you’re determined to be an early-adopter. I won’t pretend I wasn’t tempted, it would have been nice to have a new toy. But my money priority right now is a house. So no, I decided it would be a cheapo VCR to tide me over until a DVD recorder in a year or two.

I checked the clock (about the only thing that was still working on the VCR, incidently.) 2:30pm Sunday. 27.5 hours until Doctor Who came on, and 2.5 hours until most shops closed. The clock was ticking. But rather than abandon the day completely, decided to hoon down to K-Mart later on. I’d have time after 6, and though the range wouldn’t be great, they’d at least have something.

So after some fun and frivolity at the park (and an icecream on the walk back, thank you very much Adrian), down to K-Mart we went. Meagre collection of stereo VCRs available. Teenage shop assistant knew nothing about the stock (it was K-Mart, after all). Second cheapest (I reckon never go for the cheapest if you can help it) was a Sanyo jobbie, $189. Not as cheap as I’d like, but still $500 less than a decent DVD recorder. Sold.

Got it home via dinner and supermarket shopping. Plugged it all in, tried it out. Man it’s an ugly, boxy beast. Designed by ex-East German car designers perhaps? And compared to the lovely Panasonic one, lacking in handy features like Index search. Sigh. Oh well, it’ll do the job.

Now I have to work out if I’ll try and get the Panasonic repaired, or just trash it. Maybe I’ll open it up and take a look.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

10 replies on “Unexpected spree”

>> Now is precisely the wrong time to buy unless you’re determined to be an early-adopter.

It’s more like the near-end of the early adopter phase really. Early adopter has been the past few years when we’ve paid $2500+ for a machine. Cheapie DVD recorders are now almost the same price as VCRs.

>> was a Sanyo jobbie, $189. Not as cheap as I’d like, but still $500 less than a decent DVD recorder

Bit of an unfair comparison – you’re comparing a cheapie VCR to a top of the range DVD recorder. The realistic situation is that a cheapie $189 VCR is only around $100 cheaper than a cheapie DVD recorder – which is not only fair but that cheapie DVD recorder would sh#t all over even a top of the range VCR.

Having done away with VHS years ago I couldn’t imagine ever imagine trying to tolerate one of the bastards ever again ;)

Fair comment Chris, though I was comparing a cheapie VCR to a mid-range DVD recorder. And yes, I did have to think about it. What decided it was the number of video tapes I have, though had I thought a little longer about it I might have gone the DVD recorder and attempted to fix the Panasonic myself (which I’ll still try and do by the way, thanks Andrew II).

VCR destruction is so 2001…

Hey Daniel, came home via the etag freeway today and there’s a really big billboard advertising a VCR/DVD machine which burns VHS to DVD. Maybe this could be the next machine you buy (yes, in quite a while after THIS big spend!) and you could start a project to get all your VHS tapes onto DVD? Then, when this ugly boxy machine dies, you won’t mind buying a DVD burner…. :) Always happy to help you spend more…

Must admit when I moved 100% to DVD back in 1998 I lost access to every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation I had taped, edited, and filed on VHS – in addition to my partner being unable to record from TV. A DVD recorder a few years later solved the TV recording problem, and the release of TNG to DVD solved the other ;)

Now my dilemma is that series such as the new Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: Enterprise aren’t on DVD, or even Australian television, so I seem to spend a lot of time making my own discs on my Mac. :\

Not that I’m qualified, but if you want someone to come round to help fix it (or more likely hold a springy thingy when you’re holding down the door pinion below a spcroket as you attempt to perform a minor chiropractic miracle) let me know.

There’s a cheap & very good ‘Mr Fixit’ near Carnegie railway station called Chuck Electronic Services. It’s a small shop-front in Blackwood Street a couple of doors from Bigging & Scott. Chuck is a genius.

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