Surprising Everyone, Betamax Finally Loses the Format War to VHS

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Surprising Everyone, Betamax Finally Loses the Format War to VHS

Forty years after Betamax entered production, Sony has announced it will cease production of the maligned cassettes.

Format war. Format war never changes.

In a surprising move, tech giant Sony has declared it will cease producing Betamax cassettes, over 40 years after the video recording product first appeared. The surprising part, of course, is that Sony is still making Betamax cassettes.

The first Betamax cassette player rolled off a Sony production line in 1975, attached to a 19 inch television. A short time later, rival Japanese corporation JVC launched their own open format, the Video Home System or VHS, to compete with Sony's market domination.

The rest, they say, is history - but it's an interesting history, nonetheless. Much like the console wars of today, the 70s and 80s were a battleground of formats. Betamax tapes were considered to have be of a higher quality than VHS cassettes, while being more expensive. JVC's format, however, had a tremendous ally on their side: the porn industry. Once VCRs and VHSs were in more peoples' homes, and were being produced more cheaply, the widespread adoption of the format by adult entertainment companies tipped the balance in the latecomer's favor.

Twelve years after Betamax first appeared, Sony supposedly conceded the war. The last cassette player was built in 2002. The last cassette will be produced in March of 2016, before the factory is closed forever.

So which wistful, nostalgic Sony executive was keeping this product going? Which spiteful up-and-comer ended it? We may never know. All that we can truly be certain of is that HD-DVD was robbed. Long live HD-DVD!

Source: The Guardian, Sony

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Great. Just great. Now how am I gonna watch movies?

PatrickJS:
So which wistful, nostalgic Sony executive was keeping this product going?

Pretty sure, some movie makers were still sticking to Betamax as their format, hence why it was also still produced. Now with almost everything digital, the only customers left have probably also disappeared over the remaining years...

So, I am not too surprised that Betamax tapes were still made.

Damn. I loved betamax... I still would rather film analog and digitally archive it though. I feel that analog in all form of recording just captures something that digital doesn't quite capture, though touching up film digitally is OK with me. I hope that film never truly dies personally...

I've never had or used betamax, but I kind of would like to buy the last player and the last cassette ever made to use as conversation pieces.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! (Cinemasins: No. *ding*)

But seriously, now I can't wait for the pending documentary to come out that chronicles the long-ass journey of the objectively better Betamax before the final stabbing by Brutus finally made the final blow to this legendary format... Too bad said documentary would only get a Blu-Ray/Digital release... :p

Other than that, if only HD-DVD had [good] porn on it... Then maybe things on the physical format wouldn't be so "loady", per se...

flying_whimsy:
I've never had or used betamax, but I kind of would like to buy the last player and the last cassette ever made to use as conversation pieces.

A bit late the last player was sold in 2002. The only reason the media is still produced is a lot of small TV channels use it to record cheap game and news shows.

"What do you mean, we're still making Betamax?"

Bindal:

PatrickJS:
So which wistful, nostalgic Sony executive was keeping this product going?

Pretty sure, some movie makers were still sticking to Betamax as their format, hence why it was also still produced. Now with almost everything digital, the only customers left have probably also disappeared over the remaining years...

So, I am not too surprised that Betamax tapes were still made.

It's also been the medium of choice for archiving by news outlets world wide. Betamax won out within the industry over VHS due to its technical superiority, and stuck due to being easier to deal with then DVDs which where comparatively flimsy and prone to braking in the environment of a news archive. Blu Ray is taking over now however, the disks capable of taking the punishment while also having a far larger storage capacity.

I always wanted one, but those things were almost non-existent here. I just checked a local auction site and there is only one available for 223€(!), while there's a gajillion VHS players for 20€-70€.

WHATT!! do you mean I'm going to have to buy a laser disk player if I want to watch the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed?!

It was a long, hard fight, but it appears that the VHS's march of progress is unstoppable.

I am curious who the sad, lone factory worker was who still made these things, and how he felt about being out of a job. I guess we know what George Jetson was up to all that time.

I can only imagine they were making them to order, and now the orders have all dried up.

Thats the only reasonable explanation.

I always thought Bluray seemed better than HD-DVD (not that I've ever bought one), but what I took away from that 'format war' in contrast to this one was how it wasn't decided in the consumer market place. VHS and Betamax were both brought to and competed in the market. For Blu-ray vs HD DVD they were only on the shelves for a few years with Toshiba getting the early lead, but Sony got more movie studios on board and won out before the fight really even began.

Not sure if the contrast between then and now is a coincidence or statement on increased corporate influence in the marketplace.

And nothing of value was lost.

The porn industry: Being a kingmaker by showing off a guy's "king maker".

Wow, I just assumed it went out of production before the turn of the century.

I remember there's an episode of Cowboy Bebop which is set in the 2070s where the characters find a Betamax tape and the characters have the reaction that they should have. Namely, what the hell is this? Wait, why doesn't it work in a VHS?

Queen Michael:
Great. Just great. Now how am I gonna watch movies?

Why Laserdisc of course!
image

One of those things is collecting dust in our attic. It was my understanding that they lost to VHS simply because most home cinema films couldn't fit on a single betamax cassette entirely, didn't think it had anything to do with porn.

Fdzzaigl:
One of those things is collecting dust in our attic. It was my understanding that they lost to VHS simply because most home cinema films couldn't fit on a single betamax cassette entirely, didn't think it had anything to do with porn.

No, you could fit most full length movies on a betamax tape. When my parents first bought one, the local electronics store also rented movies in both formats and both had (at the time) a decent selection to chose from.

Yeah... This is less of a surprise than you'd think.

VHS won in the home space, but Betamax was used extensively in professional production environments.

Given the nature of needing to convert old material, deal with old equipment and such, that actually makes me think there's more incentive overall to keep Betamax going as a format than there is VHS.

My family's first VCR was Betamax. But I have to say I never noticed the damnedest bit of difference between its quality and VHS. Admittedly I was a relatively young kid at the time, but still; the only time we noticed the quality was when the tracking was off or the stupid machine was trying to eat your tape.

gigastar:
I can only imagine they were making them to order, and now the orders have all dried up.

Thats the only reasonable explanation.

Probably. On the other hand, you can still find electronic stores and well-stocked groceries that sells cassette tapes, you know the thing that went obsolete in the late-90's when the CD became a thing, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a small market for Betamax outside of to-order manufacture. Old technology often has a surprising longevity when it comes to people continuing its' usage.

Huh. I thought it died in the '90s. News to me.

Oh man, North Korea just got Betamax! Now what will they do?

008Zulu:
Oh man, North Korea just got Betamax! Now what will they do?

The same thing they do every night - try to take over the world!

OT. I'm still mourning the loss of 5 1/2 floppies, and now this? What is the world coming to?

Knight Captain Kerr:
Wow, I just assumed it went out of production before the turn of the century.

I remember there's an episode of Cowboy Bebop which is set in the 2070s where the characters find a Betamax tape and the characters have the reaction that they should have. Namely, what the hell is this? Wait, why doesn't it work in a VHS?

That's what I thought of when I heard this story. They don't know the difference between formats, don't particularly care when the guy at the tech shop tries to explain it to them and to top it off, Spike responds to a tape tracking error by kicking the tape player(nearly causing the guy running the shop to have a heart attack).

Good times.

008Zulu:
Oh man, North Korea just got Betamax! Now what will they do?

I'm sure Kim Jong Un and his immediate family will be very sad. Too bad for them.

You mean they were still making those? I would have thought they'd have ceased production ages ago.

Wait, "Video Home System"? I guess I just never bothered to look up what it stood for until now; that's some 1980s-anime-title level of broken English right there.

Oh my god, ive lost so much money... its been so long i dont remember who i placed the best with but i was still holding out hope Betamax would pull it back.

As someone born in 1997...

What the hell is a Betamax?

DaWaffledude:
As someone born in 1997...

What the hell is a Betamax?


I think this should help... Then again, I think your reaction would be more like this video's thumbnail afterwards...

PatrickJS:
JVC's format, however, had a tremendous ally on their side: the porn industry.

Well, except not. JVC's format was cheaper and lacked the standards restrictions. This meant they had the porn industry, yes, but also a serious number of studios in the commercial market which is what ended up tipping the scales in terms of support. There is limited evidence that the porn industry had a significant effect here or in the HD format war.

Also, Sony screwed themselves pretty hard by making intial Betamax cassettes capable of recording only a single hour. The cost and length were huge factors.

It's a fun meme, but it's not remotely accurate.

Bindal:

Pretty sure, some movie makers were still sticking to Betamax as their format, hence why it was also still produced. Now with almost everything digital, the only customers left have probably also disappeared over the remaining years...

So, I am not too surprised that Betamax tapes were still made.

I'm pretty sure we're talking non-commercial anyway.

CrystalShadow:
Yeah... This is less of a surprise than you'd think.

VHS won in the home space, but Betamax was used extensively in professional production environments.

Given the nature of needing to convert old material, deal with old equipment and such, that actually makes me think there's more incentive overall to keep Betamax going as a format than there is VHS.

There's still a ubiquity to VHS in terms of security and the like. I know a good chunk of places haven't gone digital yet, and lower quality but longer play is fine for their purposes. This could quite possibly make them more beneficial than tapes for legacy systems.

Gethsemani:

Probably. On the other hand, you can still find electronic stores and well-stocked groceries that sells cassette tapes, you know the thing that went obsolete in the late-90's when the CD became a thing, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a small market for Betamax outside of to-order manufacture. Old technology often has a surprising longevity when it comes to people continuing its' usage.

Not to mention floppies. You can still buy a 3.5" or 5" floppy disk reader pretty readily, and put anything that will fit on 1.44 MB of storage (or less).

All the best comments have been taken...the "They still made these?" from more or less every news source about it, so...oh wait, got one:

"We will tape over him. With the snooker."

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