VHS is an analog format, while modern TVs are digital. This means that connecting pre-oughts video hardware to modern TVs isn’t quite as simple as plugging in a Blu-ray player.

The easiest option is to use a converter box that will digitize your VHS tapes. These are available at most electronics stores and cost about $30.

Coaxial Cable

The VCR is a thing of the past, with most new movies released in digital format and older ones getting put on DVD or Blu-ray. While many people still have old VHS tapes around, such as home movies or a collector’s edition of The Little Mermaid, they might not know how to play them on their modern TV. The good news is that most VCRs can connect to modern TVs using a coaxial cable. Coaxial cables are the same type of cable that comes out of your wall to plug in a cable or satellite box. All you need to do is find the input that the cable has on the back of your TV and connect it to your VCR.

Most of the time, this input will be labeled “TV” or “Antenna.” However, if it’s not there, look for an input with a port the size of a headphone jack that is marked Analog, Composite, or Component. There may be a short adapter attached with three wires with circular plugs on each end (for composite video) or two of them (for component video).

If you see a cluster of yellow, red, and white sockets on the back of your TV, then it supports RCA connections. Make sure that you match the colors on each cable: yellow to red, red to white, and white to yellow. It’s important to note that if your TV supports mono audio, it will only have a single red and white socket, and not the usual dual red and yellow ones.

The next step is to turn on your VCR and make sure that it’s set to the correct input. If you have a remote that controls the TV, then look for a button that opens an input source menu or says something like “Source.” Press this and select TV, Antenna, VCR, or whatever your TV’s input is named.

If you are still having trouble, try connecting a different cable to the VCR. If that doesn’t help, then you may need to get a device called a video converter that can convert old video tapes to digital for your TV. They aren’t cheap, but they can solve the problem for you.

RCA Cable

Even though our media viewing has largely moved digital, there are still a lot of people out there who have old family home videos on VHS. They may also have some classic games like GoldenEye from their N64 or a rare collector’s edition of The Little Mermaid on DVD that they want to watch.

The good news is that a modern TV can easily be hooked up to a VCR with an RCA cable. These cables have three different plugs extending from one end that connect to corresponding colored jacks on the back of the TV, projector or other output device. Each color is designated for a specific signal: yellow carries the video, red carries one audio signal and white carries the other.

You can find these cables in any electronics store or online. Just look for a cable with a 3.5mm headphone jack on one end that branches off into two red and one white plugs (for component connections). The red and white plugs need to be connected to the matching ports on the VCR and the yellow plug needs to be connected to the green port on the TV.

If you have a newer TV and don’t have any RCA inputs, you can buy an HDMI to RCA converter for your TV. These can be found at any electronics store and will convert your analog RCA signals to a digital HDMI signal that is compatible with modern TVs.

Once you have an RCA-to-HDMI converter, simply plug your VCR’s cables into the converter and then the HDMI out of the converter into the TV. Use your VCR remote to select the appropriate input on the TV and you’re ready to go! You may notice that the picture quality isn’t as sharp as it could be. This is because a VCR only outputs an analog signal and most modern TVs are built to accept only digital signals. But hey, it’s still better than nothing!

S-Video Cable

If you’re among those who kept a few VHS tapes that the rest of us have relegated to garage sales and thrift stores, you may have wondered whether it’s possible to play these films on your modern TV. You can, although it’s not as simple as plugging a Blu-ray player in. That’s because VCRs output analog video signals, while modern TVs are designed to accept only digital ones.

The good news is that most TVs still include a port for either composite or component video. So you can use a converter box to connect your old VCR to your television. This is a relatively inexpensive piece of hardware that allows you to watch your old movies on a digital screen.

Look for RCA input ports on the back of your TV set. These are the three-pronged ports that typically feature red, white, and yellow connectors. The yellow cable carries the video signal, while the red and white cables carry audio. You can also find these ports on the back of some modern devices, including some computer monitors and some older DVD players.

Find an S-Video cable with the appropriate number of pins to match your connections. Some S-Video cables have 7 pins while others have 4. The pin configuration matters because a 4-pin cable won’t fit into a 7-pin connection. Make sure that the male ends of the cable match up with the female ends. If not, you’ll get an “audio only” image on the screen.

You should be able to tell which end of the cable is which by looking at it. The end with the colored connectors will have a plastic tab that extends slightly from the end of the cable. The end without the colored connectors will have a small metal clip that extends about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) from the cable’s end.

Connect the S-Video cable to the corresponding input on your TV, receiver, or monitor. Then plug the RCA audio cables into the color-respective inputs on the same device. Don’t connect the RCA audio cables to the same sockets that are labelled “video in” or you’ll only have black and white images on the TV.

HDMI Cable

VHS has long been a thing of the past as most people now use streaming services for their home movies, but some have old family tapes or cult classics that they would like to watch on a modern TV. It’s not as simple as just hooking up a DVD player to a TV though, as VCRs output an analog signal whereas most modern TVs are built around accepting digital signals. This means you will need to invest in a special analog RCA-to-HDMI converter box or something similar.

One way to get around this is by using a VCR DVD recorder combo. These can be found for fairly cheap at thrift stores and flea markets, and will allow you to play your tapes on a modern TV without the need for a HDMI converter or a lot of messy AV cables. Just connect the RCA outputs on the back of the combo unit to your TV (normally labeled as AV input 1 or 2). Then plug an HDMI cable into the same input port and you’re ready to go!

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on an expensive VCR DVD recorder, then you can also find cheap converter boxes online that convert analog RCA outputs into HDMI. These are normally called “composite to HDMI” adapters or simply a “composite-to-HDMI” adapter. Carefully connect the coloured plugs on the end of the adapter to their matching ports on the VCR. Then connect the white and red audio leads from the adapter to the right and left audio in ports on your TV. Then finally, connect the other end of the HDMI cable to a free HDMI port on your TV.

You should now be able to watch your VHS tapes on your modern TV, although the quality won’t be as good as it could be with a higher-end VCR or even a DVD player. A better option is to get your old tapes digitized, so you can watch them on whatever device you have access to.


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