My children haven't a clue what VHS was

How did we cope in the days before technology like Sky+?

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 6:00 am
Michael Jackson in his Billie Jean days

I suppose back then we didn’t know any differently and had no idea about the sheer amount of technology that would be coming our way.

Last Christmas I was in my dad’s attic getting down the decorations when we found boxes of old VHS tapes that needed a good dusting before we could read what had been recorded on them.

My dad had recorded a Motown 25 TV special which was broadcast in 1983. Among others from the famous label, Michael Jackson was singing his hit Billie Jean. It was the moment the King of Pop, in his black sequinned jacket, performed what would become his signature move – the Moonwalk – for the first time.

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When I saw the words Motown 25 written on the side of the tape in faded Biro, I instantly thought I’d quite like to borrow it and watch the show at home.

Then I remembered I didn’t own a VHS player and anyway, I could watch the show in an instant by getting my phone out of my pocket and finding it on YouTube.

But back in the eighties and nineties, unless you pressed ‘record’ on your VHS machine, once you’d missed a show, you’d missed it. There was no catch-up TV and certainly no pausing live television.

As a teenager I remember being lucky enough to be given a VHS recorder for Christmas to put in my bedroom. I thought I was so technologically advanced when I input the video-plus codes into my machine so it would record an episode of Noel’s House Party while I was playing badminton with friends at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

Of course, I had to insert a VHS tape into the machine and make sure it was forwarded to the correct point so it wouldn’t record over shows I’d previously taped. Nowadays, with technology like Sky+, it couldn’t be easier and that technology is evolving, with new features being introduced all the time.

This is something my six-year-old daughter Caitlin knows all about. As I scroll down my recorded programmes, which include the new series of Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and the brilliant Gogglebox, I have found shows that I didn’t put there. Like Alvin and the Chipmunks from the Nick Jr channel with not just one, but 15 episodes recorded. Then there are the four episodes of Tom and Jerry.

It seems the technology is so user-friendly even Caitlin knows how to use it and she’s even discovered how to use ‘series link’. To make some space recently, I deleted some of her watched shows. But a day later they reappeared.

Yes, she’s learnt how to use the ‘recover deleted shows’ feature.

The one thing I can’t teach them

As parents, there are many things we need to teach our children. When they enter the world kicking and screaming, unfortunately they don’t arrive with an instruction manual.

All new parents have to take each day as it comes and follow advice from friends, family and fellow parents. The following years involve much trial and error.

I’ve been a dad for almost seven years and it’s disappointing when a parenting technique doesn’t work, but it’s so rewarding when it does.

For example, when the ‘terrible twos’ arrived, I realised the quickest way to stop a tantrum was to ignore it. This helped restore harmony a whole lot quicker.

As a dad, the most important thing is that my daughters grow up to be kind, empathic, honest and respectful and I’m proud when I see them doing this.

But there’s one thing I’ve been trying to teach them which they can’t grasp and advice would be appreciated. It’s simple. When you leave a room, switch off the light.