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  • Chris Wylie

On the Death of Videotape and Other Media


"Okay, everybody," I said trying to communicate to my students how excited I was, "for the rest of class we will be doing a special project. You are all going to demonstrate what you learned this week, and I am going to videotape you."Some students chuckled and some students look confused. Even I cringed a little as the words had come out of my mouth, "videotape." After all, there was no longer any such thing.Videotape is the word we used to use to describe a process for recording moving images onto magnetic tape. The word conjures memories of the VHS/Betamax wars of the 80's and parents taking proud but shaky home movies of dance recitals, high school football games, and family vacations. In my mind I still see a clunky machine steadily flashing 12:00 as I tried to convince it to record something at 8:00, the early days of time-shifting.

Videotape barely exists any more as a noun. Actually, I am proud of the collection of Star Wars movies I have on VHS. Of course, in 2018, I have no way to watch them. And as a verb, I don't think anyone has actually videotaped anything in about a decade. But there was the word coming out of my mouth with an anachronistic thud. My younger students wondered if I was talking about a strange technology that predated the automobile or was perhaps used by gladiators during the days of the Roman Empire.

This phenomenon is not new and not new to me. I am sure that when videotape was king people still talked of 'filming' things, I remember, fondly, a time when I would "type" instead of 'keyboard'. Some words have just disappeared, as obsolete as the technology they described. Floppy disks and vinyl records made way for CD's made way for DVDs made way for thumb drives. We do still call them thumb drives, right?

Really, I have no problem with these changes. After all, technology evolves and so does its terminology. The best we can do is try to keep up with the times and the techno-babble. One way to do this: check out a copy of your local newspaper. Online, of course.

#videotape #betamax #english #esl #technology #terminology

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