The VCR has been a bad example for user interface design for many reasons. However, in my opinion, it is because they are design from the bottom up. In other words they are design much in the same way software was designed and that is a function at a time. VCR's were not designed with the end user in mind and therefore not user friendly. They may be very well designed from an engineer point of view, being error free and understandable. All this thinking about a VCR reminds me of something Jay Leno said, Jay said he went to Bill Gates house for a fundraiser and when he was there he went into the living room and saw his (Gates) VCR flashing 12:00, the punch line for this joke was if Bill cannot program a VCR how do they (VCR companies) expect the rest of us to program one. I found this very funny and I still think it is funny to this day, because it is so true. Another problem with the user interface is that all of them are different. Every company has a different user interface for each model. For example I have two VCRs from the same company (Hitachi) I got both of them with-in one year of each other. One of them was an upper model HI-FI multi-system for the living room and one was a lower model multi-system for another room. The upper model which a paid a great deal more for has many more features, but is a lot harder to program, well at first it was. The lower model does not have as many functions but is a little easier to program however it is still not as easy as it should be. One of these VCRs has a menu system based on numbers and the other has one based on function keys that are color-coded. .
The question why have we not seen the perfect design? Unlike the software industry that follows a set of guidelines most of the time the companies who produce VCRs don't. To my knowledge the VCR companies have never gotten together and set standers and guidelines for the user interface of VCRs.