Videocassette Longevity: A Poem Lacking Brevity
A treasure trove of memories

Recorded on cassette.

There’s Billy’s birth and Mindi’s mirth

And Grandpa’s clarinet.

Each moment has been saved, you hope,

They can not be replaced.

So let’s assure your tapes endure

And never get erased.

The Master Tape

Let’s start at the beginning, folks,

Before you press Record.

Go find yourself a name brand tape,

The best you can afford.

Now pick a master format like

DV or Digital8.

S-VHS or Hi8 too,

These formats are top rate.

Get yourself a high-grade tape

’cause low-grade tends to stretch.

Your pictures will bend at the top.

You’ll look at them and retch.

Your master tape is finally done.

You set it on the table.

Unless you want it lost real soon,

You’d better make a label.

You title both cassette and box

So no one else will use it.

Unless you like your work erased

And someone stands accusd.
And MASTER is another word

To mark on your cassette,

So you can tell it clearly from

The copies it begets.

They look a lot the same you know,

Both content and the title,

But master’s what you copy from

If quality is vital.

Another thing to do

As soon as taping is complete

It’s something that will save you grief,

And Murphy’s Laws you’ll cheat.

Go find the safety tab,

It’s on the front of the cassette,

To render it record-proof

So erasure’s not a threat.

Later, should you change your mind,

And want to use it o’er,

Slide the button or tape the hole.

Full function you’ll restore.


A tape should last 100 plays,

Two hundred, thereabouts.

Don’t leave a tape in Pause too long

‘Cause that will wear it out.

If played inside a clean machine,

Adjusted and maintained,

Your tape will last a good long time.

Nice pictures are retained.

If you use a VCR that has

Its belts and clutches worn,

Your tape, once new, will soon be old

And wrinkled, scratched and torn.

Another thing that tapes dislike

Which bends them out of shape,

Is sitting unrewound for days,

Unthreaded and agape.

The rollers, guides and threading posts

Though gentle during play,

Will kink a tape if threaded there

Much longer than a day.

A video recording tape

Is not archival stuff.

It will last for many years

If treated well enough.

Longevity of the tape depends

On cleanliness of habit.

So don’t be dumb and let your friends

Put drinks and pizza on it.

Construction dust and clingy lint,

And cat hairs, crumbs and Coke,

And fingerprints, are bad for tape.

You shouldn’t even smoke.


Videocassettes, my friend,

If kept inside their box,

Will stay pristine and super clean,

Away from dust and knocks.

You store the cases on their ends

So edges of the tape

Aren’t resting on the cassette walls

To bend and fray and scrape.

And furthermore a tape stood up

Is less an invitation

To set upon it, heavy things,

Which cause tape deformation.

If ever you should mail a tape,

Use packaging with bubbles.

Those bags comprised of paper fluff

Leak dust and cause you troubles.

All tape abhors magnetic fields

Like motors, amps and speakers,

Demagnetizers, TV screens

And most electric creatures.

Of temperature and humidity,

Your tapes won’t be dismayed

At 70 degrees of Fahrenheit,

(That’s 20 Centigrade).

Humidity for tape falls in

The range that we like too.

At fifty-two percent or less

They’re comfy through and through.

The danger range for temperature

Is 40 degrees below,

Or plus one-forty, (60C);

The tape will stretch, you know.

One place you shouldn’t keep a tape,

Is in the sunny rays,

Your glove compartment, on your dash

Or trunk on torrid days.


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There always will be accidents

And you will want to save

Your program so your spouse won’t send

You with it to the grave.

A slightly warped or cracked cassette

Will rub along the tape.

And fray or bend the edge so that

You can’t undo the scrape.

To solve the problem, wash your hands,

Then open the cassette,

And move the tape to ‘nother shell

That isn’t such a threat.

If liquid spills onto your tape,

It holds it like a wick.

Dismantle the cassette with care

And dab it off real quick.

And while your tape is still exposed,

Permit me to suggest:

A blow dry set at cool or warm

Evaporates the rest.

Playing the Troublesome Tape

Now let’s assume you’ve taken care

Of tapes upon your shelf.

It’s been some years since they’ve been played

You try one out yourself.

Your tape, it plays, but has the bends.

It flagwaves to and fro,

Collapsing into skinny lines.

Diagonal they go.

At first try your TV set,

The horizontal hold,

To stabilize your picture there.

Still garbage you behold?

Perhaps the tape or VCR

Is much too cold to play.

Inside, it gathers dampness and

Gets "sticky," as they say.

Let both machine and tape warm up,

To dry and work their best,

Or use the blow dry trick again

To speed along your quest.

If none of the above have worked,

Your tape has stretched or shrunk,

Don’t give up; you should try

Another trick before you’re sunk.

Fast forward your vexatious tape

And right up to the end.

The process will relax the tape

And "air it out," my friend.

The tape may slightly change its shape,

Returning to the norm.

Rewind the tape back to start

And now it may conform.

The Archival tape

No matter what the experts say

Nobody really knows

How long a tape will really last

‘Til it will decompose.

The tapes made 20 years ago

With effort can be played

But tape is so much different now

They say it won’t degrade.

We’ll never know if Billy’s birth

Will last until he’s wed.

Of course, your tape may prove itself

Right up ’til you’re dead.

A newer tape will come along,

Thanks to engineers.

So this debate will start again

In five or twenty years.

The biggest problem that we face

Is not the tape, but how

We’ll ever find a VCR

To play it years from now.

One way to make it possible

To find an "old" machine

Is buy one now, then seal it up

To keep for years, pristine.

A better bet is make a dupe

When passed ten years or so.

Accept a generation loss

But save a tale of woe.

And when you make your copy new

Employ your wisest guess

Of what format is likely not

To quickly obsolesce.


You’ve been so kind to tolerate

This little tape-care verse.

I’m not a Robert Frost, I know:

I’m 98 times worse.

My rhyme may make you shudder,

My meter may be trash.

Don’t cancel your subscription,

Videomaker needs the cash.

Don’t bother sending letters, too.

I promise I’ll desist

From spouting further poetry.

I found an exorcist.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.