Videotape will not last forever. But with care, you can extend the life of that fragile strip of plastic that is the heart of your videotaping experience.

- Always rewind tapes. There is less stress and tension on the tape itself that way and will lengthen its usable life.- When storing tapes, stand them up like a book, not on their sides. Otherwise, after a time, edges will begin to buckle and affect the images.

- Avoid magnets. Videotape is nothing more than particles arranged by magnetic forces. So while an airport X-ray machine will not harm your tape it is wise to avoid metal detectors. Remember that magnets exist in many places in the home - most speakers, for example, contain a sizeable magnet.

- Avoid extreme temperatures. Excessive cold will make tape brittle, while extreme heat will cause stretching. Cool, not cold, rooms with consistent and moderate humidity are best.

- Throwing or dropping tape cassettes can damage them, especially as they age. While most cassettes are fairly hardy, they are made to be run slowly through a recorder or playback unit, not to be pitched about like a ball.