From 1990: A VCR that skips commercials? In Canada? No.

In 1990, Midday told viewers about a VCR on the market that would skip commercials as it recorded. Unfortunately, it wasn't a thing in Canada.
In 1990, Midday reports on a VCR in Japan that skips commercials when recording. 0:21
Anyone who lived through the VCR era will know that taping something was only half the battle when it came to watching it.

Because even if you successfully programmed the machine to record a program, you had to fast-forward through all the commercials — that is, you had to if you didn't live in Japan.

Midday told viewers in September of 1990 about a new type of VCR being used in Japan that would skip the commercials during a record.

'It's pretty clever'

"It's pretty clever," said Tom Keenan, the technology columnist for Midday, explaining that the devices were honing in on signals the Japanese networks used, which weren't used in the same way in Canada.
Midday wants to know how these VCRs work and if we can get them in Canada. 1:09

Keenan said that many movies broadcast in Japan had dual English and Japanese audio tracks, but only Japanese audio during commercials — hence the signals at those break points.

"That signal can be detected by the video recorder," said Keenan. "So what it does, is it just stops recording when it sees the commercial. Then, when you get back to the real program, it picks it up again."

VCRs, of course, were a big business by 1990 — as Midday co-host Valerie Pringle told viewers, two-thirds of Canadian households had a machine at home at that time.

How can it happen here?

Fellow Midday co-host Ralph Benmergui wondered how many home viewers in North America were getting sick of watching commercials and what steps they might take to avoid them — and how they might be thwarted by cable companies or advertisers in their efforts to do so.

Tom Keenan discusses the possibility of commercial-skipping VCR technology coming to North America. 1:00

Keenan said it was likely the idea would come to North America at some point. The question was how it would be realized.

"What it comes down to is, how can you detect commercials?" he said. "If the networks send you a signal, it's pretty easy. Maybe there are other ways."

Wrapping up the discussion, Benmergui said "we'll keep our eye on this and maybe it will spread to North America."

It didn't.