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YouTube honors birthday of video recorder with VHS-style videos

Celebrating the 57th birthday of the first commercial videotape recorder, YouTube can display certain videos in the style of "vintage video tapes."

A YouTube clip VHS style.
A YouTube clip VHS style.
YouTube/Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Anyone who misses the fuzzy quality of old VHS tapes can take a nostalgic tour courtesy of YouTube.

Celebrating the birth of the first commercial videotape recorder 57 years ago, YouTube has added an option to certain videos to let you view them in old VHS mode. Instead of sporting today's cleaner digital look, the videos appear in a scratchy, static-filled screen.

One such video to get the VHS treatment is a clip from the Pixar film "Ratatouille." Just click on the Enable Tape Mode icon to travel back in time and watch the video in all its fuzzy and scratchy glory.

Of course, trips through nostalgia sometimes just make us appreciate the present. A few minutes of this will probably have most people longing for the cleaner, crisper look of today's videos. But YouTube does do a good job of reminding us just how the video world got its start.

The first commercial videotape recorder, the Ampex VRX-1000 (later renamed the Mark IV), was unveiled in 1956 -- but there is some debate about the exact date. Ampex says the VRX-1000 was introduced on March 14, but information from the Library of Congress places the date as April 14. A spokeswoman for Ampex acknowledged the discrepancy to CNET but said the April date is considered the more likely one.

Ampex's recorder actually used reel-to-reel tape; cassette recorders would come much later. On November 30, 1956, CNET parent CBS aired the first videotaped broadcast using the VRX-1000.

The invention changed the face of television, allowing for videotape delayed broadcasts. But it also marked the beginning of the end of live TV.

Below, you can see the way YouTube normally shows this clip from "Ratatouille." To see the fuzzy VHS treatment, you'll have to click through to YouTube proper.