A year later, we visited the friends in Arkansas who had introduced my parents to Beta, who was thrilled to discover that I'd found one. So thrilled, in fact, that she went to the storage locker where she'd stored all of her old Beta tapes (the two machines she owned were either broken or stolen). I was in heaven! I'd brought along the 5400 on this trip because I knew this would happen, and was glad I did; many of the tapes were movies recorded from network or public TV, such as "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "The Lion in Winter", but I was even more surprised to find several movies taped from Showtime and HBO in the early and mid-80's, such as "Arthur". Not only were the old promos and commercials a real treat, but there were a few other jewels mixed in, such as the local news broadcast from November 1982, in which the weather report (meteorology being another major obsession with me!) was shown, where the meteorologist actually used charts and markers more than primitive blue screen!
I continued taping everything on the 5400, except when I got involved in videotape trading about the same time (VHS, unfortunately), where I had no choice but to dub the other person's tape on VHS. But everything I taped for myself, I taped on Beta.
Until May, 2001, that is. In the middle of the night, a huge storm came through our area and some severe lightning fried the tuner. Not to the point of which it was unusable, you see, but it degraded the picture quality of the reception (and playback) severely. It also didn't help that the machine had presented a problem since day 1; it didn't accept the lower grade of blank tapes that Sony sold...it distorted the playback on those. Thus, I always had to buy the more expensive (and harder to find) high grades.
I re-connected my entire video set so that the Beta was no longer directly hooked up to the TV, but in a rather embarrassing position through the VHS, in a position where it could only play tapes. It complicated recording and editing, but I still managed to record almost everything on Beta, and over the next year or so, I managed to tape some more great stuff on it, such as the network premiere of "American Pie", Paul Schrader's "Cat People", and "The Fly", not to mention much of the first season of "Northern Exposure", one of our family's favorite shows.
By November 2002, however, I'd all but given up. It just became too complicated to bother. If I hadn't already gotten about 150 tapes for Beta, I probably would've dropped the format. The machine sat in a lonely corner of my room on it's table for more than a year, only receiving use when I wanted to watch a tape, which wasn't very often as high school afforded me less and less spare time.
However, things took a turn for the better in December, 2003. An SLHFR-70 was being sold on E-bay for only $100 in working condition. Not only was this a new Beta that would rejuvenate my collection and interest in the format, but a SUPER-Beta! That great quality I'd always heard about would soon grace my TV screen. We bought it...and I was disappointed as heck when it wouldn't power up.
Luckily, the place that we bought the first Beta from was able to fix it (for $100), and I was in business by January. It DID work, and the quality was OUTSTANDING! It accepted all of the tapes I used with it, and my collection grew more than impressively. The only problem I have with this machine is that it used a time counter, and all of my tapes recorded on the 5400 were already indexed with the digital counter system. However, that's just nitpicking.
It was through this machine that I discovered two of my new favorite movies; "Caligula", and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (however contradictory that sounds). In the past seven months, I've filled up (and I mean filled up to 4 and a half hours on BIII) over 30 tapes! It's my system to have a tape by the machine at all times, cued to the right spot in case something turns up on TV that I'll want to tape IMMEDIATELY.
The new Beta has served me well so far, and the old Beta still remains, on a different shelf, and gets more use than one might imagine, even if I don't record on it anymore. I don't care if Sony stops making Betas, it's their loss. I'm set, and so, I see, are many of my fellow Betaphiles.
Submitted Thursday, July 01, 2004 1:27 PM