Yeah, back in the day, people either wanted to record while they were out (and leave the TV off) or record a channel while they watched another. Comparatively few watched the channel while they were recording it (usually sports events or significant historical broadcasts), and even then they were content to let the VCR tune.
There were a few cheapo VCRs that didn't have tuners; I briefly owned one. DVD recorders without tuners were somewhat more common. Those were primarily intended for use with a cable or satellite box, or a dubbing project, rather than a TV with monitor out. Though there's no reason why you couldn't have a TV tuning setup with those, if it's what you wanted.
Don't believe everything on the Interwebz! A duck's quack DOES echo!