Just take them. Seriously, I just want rid.

How long ago was it that you cleared out your attic and gave all of your VHS tapes away to anyone willing to take them? A few cents for the whole box felt like a good deal.

White lines scrolling across the screen, a soundtrack that faded in and out and the chore of rewinding whenever you wanted to watch again. It’s little wonder the chunky, clunky VHS faded out of fashion fast after the arrival of the DVD with scene skip, crisp picture, bonus material and navigation menu.

So eager were we to purge our homes of those black plastic blocks some scholars are now trying to save them from complete extinction. Earlier this year Yale University bought 2,700 VHS tapes, mainly in the horror and exploitation genres (including titles like Toxic Zombies, Buried Alive and The Last Slumber Party). Yale librarian David Gary said the films, box art and blurbs were “the kind of material that lets you get at the cultural id of an era.


Culturally interesting perhaps, but VHS is no way to watch a movie. The arrival of the DVD felt like a revelation. That format too is possibly in its final days. Today, many are turning to video on demand (VOD) services. Half of all Australian internet users of all ages watch movies and TV online. That figure is likely to increase with the increased availability of faster internet connections and the arrival of VOD services like Netflix and Stan.

VOD has all the functionality of DVDs and more. The quality is better. You don’t need a special player. Just the phone or computer you use daily anyway and an internet connection.

Vinyl to CD to On Demand

The way we consume music has taken a similar path to digital. Vinyl LPs are big and heavy, they scratch and warp and it’s a struggle to skip tracks. Sound quality aside, CDs are much more user friendly than their predecessors: smaller, more functional and you didn’t need to flip them halfway through. But who buys CDs nowadays?

Only two CDs went platinum (a million copies sold) last year – Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the Frozen soundtrack. Sales are falling more than ten per cent per year. Meanwhile, there were more than 164 billion songs streamed through on-demand audio and video platforms like Spotify and Pandora. That’s a 54 per cent rise on the previous year.

Music streaming has all the functionality of CD and more. You don’t need a special player. Just the phone or computer you use daily anyway and an internet connection.

Cash to Card to Mobile Payments

So what have music and movies got to do with mobile payments? Well, a trend emerges: analogue to more functional analogue to digital. For centuries, cash was king. Then came the plastic credit and debit card.

The usability of cards was a huge improvement. Cards are easier and safer to carry than wads of cash; packed with security features like pin numbers, fraud alerts, and signatures; accepted almost everywhere (including abroad); and if you lose the card, your money is not lost. Little wonder the use of cash has decreased consistently since 2007. As a share of all payments across all demographics, cash fell from 69 per cent in 2007 to 47 per cent in 2013. Is cash going the same way as VHS videos? Soon to be consigned to museum exhibits?

Fully digital alternatives are on their way. Apple Pay is a mobile payment service that lets newer Apple device users to make payments in store (via a wireless NFC connection) and online. Cards are fully digitised and payment made by passing a smartphone over a reader on the till. Google Wallet and Samsung Pay (which instead communicates with magnetic strip readers) work in a similar way.

Mobile payments have all the functionality of cards and more. You can use digital wallets and access accounts on any device. Special readers yes, but not for the consumer. Nothing extra to store and keep safe – just the phone you use daily anyway and a wireless connection.