MadSci Network: Computer Science

Re: Does it harm my TV if I fast forward videos while they are playing?

Date: Thu Jul 24 08:13:20 2003
Posted By: Chris Seaman, Staff, Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Alcoa Technical Center
Area of science: Computer Science
ID: 1052317633.Cs

Fastfowarding does not harm the TV, but does put some additional wear and 
tear on the tape.  A good visual description of how a VCR works can be 
found in David Macaulay's book "The Way Things Work".

The image is read from the tape by passing it over a spinning magnetic 
head.  (When you first stick the tape in, the whirring noises you hear are 
motors which move the tape up to the head.)

There are two methods of fast-forwarding (or rewinding) with a VCR, one 
where you can see the image, and one where you cannot.  When you fast-
forward while seeing the image, the tape is still engaged to the magnetic 
head.  When you fast-forward without seeing the image, the tape is 
retracted.  This second method is a much faster way to fast-forward, and 
is easier on the tape.

Fast-forwarding while viewing the image, for a short period, such as 
skipping commercials, is perfectly fine; the tapes and VCR are designed 
for this.  But, don't FF with the image if you want to skip the first half 
of a movie, for example, this will cause the tape to stretch, and begin to 
reduce it's life.  (This stretching is the main cause of wear on a tape.)

Chris Seaman
Alcoa Technical Center

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