If you haven’t already heard, the world will officially be saying goodbye to VCR players. According to Forbes, Japan’s Funai Electric, a company that claims to be the last manufacturer of VCRs, will manufacture its last VHS player this month. The company expresses that the decision stems from VCR parts becoming increasingly costly and difficult to source due to decreased production numbers.
If you were around in the 80s or 90s, VCRs and VHS tapes with their big, bulky plastic covers are fond, nostalgic memories for you. If you’re a vintage video collector, this news will also come as a sad blow. And if you’re the CEO of a CPA Review company who used video cassette tapes as the foundation of your CPA Review course, you hold VCRs and VHS tapes near and dear to your heart.
When I first began building Roger CPA Review, I began with teaching live courses on the weekends in San Francisco and San Jose. However, as I gained more students over time, I realized that not only was I being stretched thin, but CPA Exam candidates were having a difficult time coming to live courses as they juggled families, school, and their careers. I knew there had to be a better alternative to providing students with the review preparation they needed that also gave them the flexibility to study according to their lifestyle and schedule.
Enter VCRs and VHS tapes. Remember, this was way before platforms like Youtube, iTunes, or Vimeo; before technology allowed for the upload, storage, and hosting of video content on the web.
So I began to sell my course through video cassettes. I hired a videographer to film myself teaching and lecturing—the video camera was my student; the living room, my classroom. I had 25 VCRs in my living room, not including a master recorder. Anyone walking into my home could see I was running some type of operation. I would insert 25 blank, pre-labeled video cassette tapes and record my course 3 hours at a time since that was as much as each tape could hold. I set an alarm clock for every 3.5 hours so that I could eject the 25 tapes and throw the next batch in to continue recording. I was doing this 24 hours a day.
In the end, my full course consisted of 33 video cassettes along with textbooks. At the time, all the videos combined contained about 99 hours of CPA Exam lectures, and they were shipped in large boxes to students. Little did I know that Roger CPA Review would become the first CPA review course to make its content available 24/7 through this process.
Fast forward to 2016 – and while our course is now still available 24/7, it is now delivered via a fully integrated online eLearning platform complete with adaptive diagnostics and eTextbooks. We’re now able to ship students a 128 gigabyte thumb flash drive that contains 120 hours of offline lectures—all of which takes 30 minutes to copy and upload, and doesn’t require anything larger than an envelope to send. To say that technology has changed the way education and businesses operate is an obvious understatement.
Looking back, I can see how VHS tapes provided the earliest type of eLearning, in a way. Back before the internet was able to provide the type of support that video streaming needed to flow seamlessly and be available to the masses, VHS tapes made education readily accessible and more importantly, convenient.
Now that the last company to manufacture VCRs will stop doing so this month, I thought it was only proper to pay homage to VHS tapes and the many amazing ways they brought entertainment and education into people’s homes and lives—especially for myself and many CPA Exam candidates of the past.
Although Roger CPA Review has long since evolved, I will never forget its humble beginnings. As VCRs take their place in the technology hall of fame, I think it’s fitting to say, “Here’s looking at you kid.”