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Videoplus+ handsets and codes

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  • Videoplus+ handsets and codes

    I suppose that this is slightly connected to the Video v DVD transition thread I made a few months back, but I was thinking about this fascinating way of recording TV programmes, saving time on doing so as instead of matching up the start time, end time, channel and so on, one just typed in a number copied from the Daily Mirror or the Radio Times into the handset or remote control, and Hey Presto! - that evening's episode of Coronation Street will be recorded for you to watch later when you come back from the pub, or get out of the bath.

    I used to have one of those Gemstar Videoplus+ handsets that I purchased from Argos in around 1995, and it sat neatly on top of the VCR like an ornament almost gathering dust - a flashing red light on the end of it meant that it was going to tell your video to record something (getting to know it just like the One for All remote control), and as long as one remembers to switch the video off (but not completely off of course) the programme should record, provided that one puts a blank tape in that could record the programme. I saw one on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and so I bought it for old times' sake, but as the batteries were not included and no instruction manual was included either, it wasn't much good to me.

    In addition, I also had VCRs with built in Videoplus+ technology, as long as you set the clock to the chimes of Big Ben so that you don't miss a second - I have still got one as a matter of fact. I know that either Amstrad or Panasonic did VCRs in the late 1980s and early 1990s which had a barcode mechanism, and which the Daily Mail and some TV listings magazines briefly printed codes for some movies premieres on the Sky Movie channels back then, and one had to use the remote control as if a checkout operator was trying to find out the price for a loaf of bread - a comedian back then joked that he recorded half his supermarket groceries as a result of doing that! Mail order catalogues and High Street stores like Dixons used to sell identical VCRs with and without the technology, and the ones with Videoplus+ would be around 20 more, but I think that the cost was worth it.

    I used to overload it at Christmas and New Year putting anything on it from The Queen to the New Year bongs of Big Ben - the same on Bank Holidays and also when movie premieres came on screen. When I got Sky Digital and one could save programmes onto the EPG, as far as I was concerned it was when I used my VCR a bit less, and the fact that I used to pick them up from that.

    Some of the things were a bit fiddly, for example, having to record a regional programme when one can receive more than one region, and having to manually change the channel, or if a programme is running late to a football match going to extra time, or the clocks going back or so on - apart from that it was a very useful tool which was used just like dialing a number on the telephone. And of course, it wasn't the same code for each episode of the same programme either, but at least one could set it to Daily (Monday to Friday only) or weekly at the same time. I am certain that someone did it when they recorded the Christmas Morning Service one year, and they actually selected "weekly" rather than "once", and half way into January, he wondered why he was recording Homes Under the Hammer at 10.00 am on a Wednesday morning without fail!

    Prior to having cable and satellite TV, I saw that the non terrestrial channels also had the codes, and I actually thought that I could record something off UK Gold (despite not having cable at the time) such as an old Top of the Pops and it would have been recorded. Lo and behold, I just recorded a spare channel which had nothing on it. The same principle used to come to mind when I saw the regional variations bit in the newspaper - I actually thought back then that if I copied the code from something that, let's say, only HTV was the only company which used that code for a regional programme because of its timing, I could record it - again, I recorded a blank channel of nothing. Even the aerial on the roof made me think that it was directly connected to what was happening, which I suppose it was in a way.

    My local newspaper resisted printed them in their TV section for a couple of years while national newspapers and magazines had already printed them, before officially introducing them for the first time in August 1993. There was talk at the time that the handsets could pause tapes when commercial breaks were on, and then retain recording when the programme came back - I suppose that one problem there was the fact that a second out and part of the programme it was trying to record could be lost, and on the other hand, it would have been great in hindsight to see all those old adverts again over a quarter of a century later!

    The different codes used to fascinate me, and I often used to type in people's telephone numbers to see which programme we would have recorded with that! - the chances are there would have been an error with the code and that it wouldn't exist. I was looking at The Times digital archive at the old TV guides between 1992 and 2011 when they listed the codes next to the programmes to see if I could see any pattern with them over the years. I have actually managed to select a TV page from the website's search facility by just typing in the seven or eight digit Videoplus+ code, usually for some oddly timed things like films!

    The codes were from one to eight digits in length, and some primetime terrestrial half hour slots had three digit numbers - even one digit numbers were often seen on the first day of the month! I have been looking back on the old TV listings in The Times, and I have found out something that I had never realised before: if it happened to be my birthday (30th August) and I wanted to record Coronation Street at 7.30 pm (I know there are two episodes in an evening these days, but never mind), the code number for Coronation Street at 7.30 pm would always be 189, no matter which year it was, the code for that time was always the same. If I wanted to record the Six O'clock News on BBC 1 that same day, the Videoplus+ code number would be 585, and half an hour later, if I wanted to record Look East, South Today, Points West etc at 6.30 pm, the code would be 837. Only the four digit and greater numbers had different codes for the same slots each year.

    It is a pity that since analogue signals were switched off, and the VCR giving way to DVD had meant that the codes had been silently dropped from newspapers and magazines in around 2012 - in fact, I cannot remember when exactly when it happened - I know that hardly anyone mentions it now, and any mention of it online brings up old threads from the 2000s or before that.

    Does anyone still have one of those Gemstar Videoplus+ handsets or even VCRs with the technology built in? - they were great weren't they? It's a pity that technology moves on and that it obviously gets left behind.
    I've everything I need to keep me satisfied
    There's nothing you can do to make me change my mind
    I'm having so much fun
    My lucky number's one
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  • #2
    Re: Videoplus+ handsets and codes

    I've still for a VCR with Video+ but I've not used it for recording since the analogue switchover. The clock was synced by a signal from BBC2 so it used to be very accurate.

    My DVD recorder also has Video+ but since the guides stopped printing the numbers I've had to use the on screen guide to programme it.
    The Trickster On The Roof


    • #3
      Re: Videoplus+ handsets and codes

      I bought a VCR with Video+. I think I used it around three times. Still got it. It's in tiptop condition, since it's hardly been used. Most of my video collection is intact, stored away.
      Who cared about rules when you were young?


      • #4
        Re: Videoplus+ handsets and codes

        I used to have a Panasonic with videoplus+ , It also came with a plastic booklet with barcodes on so you could program it manually. This was obviously not quite as quick or convenient as scanning the newspaper listings but meant you could record exactly what you wanted and add time on to the end to allow for any delays etc.

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