I heard someone say it today at STV. It about sums up the best of my childhood, that. From copying a rental edition of Empire Strikes Back (later paying for it twice on VHS and again on DVD, not to mention the cinema tickets for the re-release) to making mix tapes to impress a girl, “Press ‘play’ on that one, and ‘Record’ on that one,” made magic happen.
I had finished for the day. I’d saved my project, closed the application, shut down the computer and gathered my things. On the way to the door I heard a woman say it. Looking instinctively in her direction, I saw her regarding a video tape deck, probably DigiBeta, and a DVD recorder. Although both formats were digital, they were linked by a fat, umbilically analogue cable.
I assumed they were transferring the tape’s contents onto DVD, but it could easily have been the opposite. It didn’t matter. It mattered only that one was to play, and the other was to record.
I was instantly reminded how lucky I am to have a job that lets me do for a living what, in childhood, I did for fun. Or, if not for fun, because it seemed the right thing to do while I was in that blissful state of having two hard-working individuals subsidise my entire existence. The options weren’t infinite during that time, but they were multitudinous, and I often chose among that wealth of possibilities to press ‘Play’ on one machine and ‘Record’ on another.
Sometimes I was taking possession of something I had only paid to rent, sometimes I was sharing culture. I was stealing. I was giving. Plus I edited my first film by hooking two VHS recorders up and learning how many seconds it took one of them to actually start recording after you hit the button (slightly nearer four than three seconds, FYI).
What I do for a living now amounts to making copies. The camera copies what it sees onto film, or tape, or solid state media. I copy that information onto a hard drive, reorganise it and make multiple copies of my derivative work. In TV, I deliver some of those copies to various places and other people make many more copies, broadcasting them, analogue and digital, over the airwaves and hosting them on streaming web platforms. Then any interested home users (if we’re fortunate enough to have any) copy them to their local systems and put yet more copies on YouTube and similar sites.) Frankly, the more the merrier.
There’s a hysterical crisis over copying at the moment, but I won’t get into it here, except to say that, broadly, I’m all for copying and always have been. I’m for preservation, for sharing and, yes, for paying what I deem fit (which ranges from nothing to far in excess of what is being asked).
For me, it started with, “Press ‘Play’ on that one, and ‘Record’ on that one,” and I’m so glad that within the broadcast industry it’s still, on occasion, considered a solution rather than a problem.