Why ‘Data Rot’ Has Destroyed Your VHS Memories

Why content on many VHS videotapes from 30 and 40 years ago are now ruined

‘Data Rot’ has affected your VHS videotape memories

A QUICK READ:

  • Why digitally converting VHS videotape cassettes has ended at ScanMyPhotos.com
  • The content from most magnetic videotape media from the ‘70s and ’80 has disappeared
  • While ScanMyPhotos.com is closing its VHS digital conversion services, the full focus is now on the trove from trillions of pre-digital photos, film negatives and 35mm slides to digitize
  • Magnetic videotape was a giant leap forward in technology, yet today is an obsolete relic

ScanMyPhotos.com today announces the halt of regular digital conversion of VHS cassettes due to the magnetic media’s quality degradation.  This is a purposeful and melancholic declaration that the content of most VCR cassettes is officially dead as ‘data rot’ and time have rendered its content nearly erased and all gone.




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As the condition of these home movies got worse, the quality of digitizing this content was troubling. Quality matters most, yet the digital output became so poor, it no longer met our standards for professional digitization.

As a pioneer in photo digitization, it is heart-wrenching to observe the loss of most of the cherished wedding tapes, birthday celebrations, vacation recordings, and once-in-a-lifetime family nostalgia that literally disappear.

VHS tapes begin on the path towards data degradation and digital decay years ago. The billions of VHS cassettes were often not stored in climate controlled conditions with optimal temperature and in a dust free environment.

Transferring that content to a digitally preserved format in most cases is no longer an option.  The magnetic video tape media and its magnetic charge were always impermanent.  Over time, the magnetic particles became demagnetized. The problems included viewing multiple times, extensive rewinding and playback that caused tracking errors and reduced quality. Beyond how the tapes were stored, re-recording over the content lead to further irreparable generation degradation.

A quick New York Times read: Meet the Curiosity-Seekers and Die-Hards at the Last True Blockbuster

As the limited life span has long passed, ScanMyPhotos.com today is announcing converting those memories from the late ’70s – ’90s is impractical. Few will be happy with what they view after antiquated VHS cassettes are digitized. Only the most important and vital VHS tapes will still be accepted now by the nation’s digital conversion company.

“This was inevitable, as ‘data rot’ lead to the end of the lifespan for VHS, VHS-C, and Hi 8,” explains Mitch Goldstone, President & CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com.  Back in 2016, the world’s last manufacturer of VCRs ceased production and it has been years since tapes were sold or people visited the once iconic Blockbuster Video stores. 

While ScanMyPhotos.com is closing its VHS digital conversion services, the full focus is now on the trove from trillions of pre-digital photos, film negatives and 35mm slides to digitize.

Magnetic video tape was a giant leap forward in technology, yet today is an obsolete relic. Nobody back then even knew what the social media term “hashtag” was, yet today #dinosaur is the best descriptor of the once iconic VHS cassette.   

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