My childhood consisted of my sister and I sitting criss-cross applesauce on the living room floor in front of our small TV watching endless amounts of Disney films. We would run to our plastic box filled to the rim with Little Mermaid, Lion King, and countless other VHS films to pick that days entertainment. These rectangle boxes of film were such an important part of my youth. Not only would my sister and I gaze at the princesses on the screen multiple times a day, but they were also the source of the background music for our family dance parties and the only way we could sit through a long car ride in peace.
When I was four years old we moved out of our apartment to our house that we now live in. Our VHS films also got a big upgrade when we designated three drawers in our TV unit for our Disney films. Our family traditions of watching the films carried on until we purchased a new TV. With the new, bigger flat screen TVs on the market; we decided to replace our small low quality TV. With the TV came brand new features such as a CD player so we can play our Disney music rather than just dancing along to the films. Unfortunately, the TV only came with a player for our DVDs and not for our videocassette devices. We now rented the same exact movies that we had on the Sony VHS tapes in the DVD form since we did not have the technology to play them. While we could convert some old home video VHS films into DVD form, we could not with our Disney films due to copyright violations. Tarleton Gillespie, author of “Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture” would reason that my family could not convert the Disney videocassette films into DVDs because they are “trusted systems.” Regulatory systems are built in the videocassettes to control and prevent users from illegally replicating the copyrighted material. If my family could have easily transferred our Disney films into a DVD format, there would be no financial incentive for Disney and Sony to bring their DVD form of the films into the marketplace and would discourage them from sharing their material with the consumers.
Sony, like my family, also struggled shifting their technology production with the changing times. The Sony VHS format of films boomed until the production of the DVD form in 1997. Although the evolution from VHS to DVD was slow, the final step in the promoting the new form of technology was in August 2006. 20th Century Fox and Lucas Film announced the first major skip from VHS, straight to DVD for the Star Wars: Episode III movie (Contra Costa Times 2006). In 2007 Sony spent $24.2 billion on DVD’s and VHS combine; however, VHS only accounted for $100 million of the spending (Japan Times 2007). Finally after the videocassette tapes rapid declined over the years, they have become obsolete in Sony’s present day production.
Sony’s profits began rapidly suffering from the growing success of downloadable music and on-demand movies. In order to save money, in October 2010 Sony transferred all their DVD, VHS, and CD manufacturing to one plant in Terre Haute Indiana and laid off 2.5% of its work force (The Tribune-Star 2010). Sony’s difficulty adjusting to new technology caused them a $1.1 billion net loss from it previous estimated 300 million-dollar in profits in 2014. This loss forced them to transfer a portion of their failing business, including smartphones, tablets, and PCs, to a new company established by Japan Industrial Partners. The business transfer will cause Sony to cut another five thousand jobs by March 2015 (China Daily 2015). Sony’s challenges of keeping up with new technology could eventually cause them bankruptcy.
Like Sony, my family too does not know what to do with our obsolete forms of technology. Now, years later our three drawers of Disney VHS films still sit, untouched in their respected places. The films are perfectly wound and their cases do not have a scratch. I can argue that I do not want to throw them away because it would be a waste of a quality movie. The truth lies in Sherry Turkle’s argument, I am holding on to these VHS films for their power of nostalgia. Every time I open one of the drawers I can see my dad spinning around our apartment with my sister on his shoulders dancing to the beat of Tarzan’s Trashing the Camp song.
Although it’s possible my films might be worth money one day, as they are the original versions of Disney films; however, there is no reason to hold on to these VHS films. I found that when people attempt to recycle their VHS tapes, normal recycling plants reject the material in fear the tape from the cassettes would break the machinery. Upon farther research, I discovered a new company called GreenDisk provides a pick up service to dispose of old VHS tapes. They are a national nonprofit organization that collects old pieces of technology anywhere from floppy disks to VHS tapes. They melt disks to be reused for auto parts and appliances as well as refurbish old inkjet cartridges and cell-phones. The GreenDisk website says that the technology that cannot be reused is broken down to its smallest components, such as metals and plastics, and almost 100% said material is reused for their product, GreenDisk diskettes. The website claims that no poisonous or obsolete products are sent overseas to third world countries like the majority of supposed “recycled” techno-trash. GreenDisk works with over 350 companies, including Microsoft and Boeing, to give them their recycled parts. While GreenDisk provides an eco-friendly service, Toby Miller, author of “Greening the Media” would argue that it is not their responsibility to provide safe methods of cycling the technology. Sony should make their products in a way for it to be safely recycled and reused. There will not be real ecological change by leaving individual customers responsible for discovering methods of recycling technology.
While I did find one successful and safe company to turn my videocassette disks to, I am not satisfied with my scarce results. Until I want to box up my Disney films and send them to GreenDisk, these numerous films will continue to waste space in the drawers. There needs to be an easier way to properly dispose of techno-trash.
“Electronics Recycling Services CD Recycling Services DVD Electronics Video Tape.” Electronics Recycling Services CD Recycling Services DVD Electronics Video Tape. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
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Lisa, . “Company takes out the technotrash; GreenDisk makes it easy for companies and individuals to recycle their floppy disks, cell phones.” Contra Costa Times (California). (June 11, 2006 Sunday ): 694 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/03/10.
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