Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

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Why Foam Packing Peanuts and VCRs Should Never Mix

Just before BayCon, Lisa had me purchase on eBay a couple of Panasonic AG-5700 professional editing VCRs. They arrived just before she headed for California. She called me and in a despairing tone informed me that the seller had simply put them in a box and dumped foam packing peanuts around them, and that the packing peanuts had gotten into the VCR's mechanism. I corresponded with the seller, and they agreed that we could open them up and try to extract the peanuts ourselves and that they'd take the units back if the peanuts had damaged the units internally.

We decided to wait until I had the camera up in Oregon with Lisa so we could document everything we had done, just in case there were any questions.


Here's what one of the units looked like out of the box. Not so bad, you think, until you try inserting a tape....


If you look inside the VCR door, you see a bunch of foam peanuts inside the tape mechanism.

So Lisa carefully removed the top cover of the VCR.

This is the main control board of the unit, which hinges out of the way to reveal....


A VCR full of peanuts!


This is the area of the VCR that normally has a video tape inside it.


A detail of another part of the innards of the VCR.


The darn things get everywhere inside the unit, and sometimes get wedged into place. You don't want to pull hard on them, because they'll shred, leaving little bits of foam to ingratiate themselves into the delicate mechanisms.

Like a surgeon extracting shrapnel, Lisa wielded a pair of forceps and carefully extracted foam peanuts, wincing every time one tore slightly trying to work loose from the machine. Some of the nuts really were deeply embedded, and on one of the two machines, she also had to remove the bottom and front plates to get at pieces wedged into odd spots.


When she was done, we had a bag full of peanuts. All of these foam peanuts were inside the two VCRs.


Using a can of compressed air, Lisa blew as much stray dust and bits out of the units as she could. Then she reassembled the machines and connected them up to the other equipment she has (including other AG-5700s) for testing.

Somewhat to our astonishment, after carefully cleaning all of the packing peanuts out of the machines, they both worked properly, playing and recording tapes just fine. What a relief!

But here's a lesson if you should ever have to ship a VCR: Never use packing peanuts. This isn't even the first time something like this has happened to us. There are other packing materials that will protect your goods without trying to worm their way inside of every nook and cranny of sensitive electronic equipment.
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