VHS or Beta? The argument for Betamax VCRs (1977)

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Anybody who lived through the great videotape format war of the late 1970s to early 1980s will never forget that signature question: VHS or Beta? (In fact, that question is so firmly lodged in the collective consciousness of the US, there’s even a band by that name.)

Sony rolled out Betamax — commonly abbreviated as Beta — in 1975, and JVC followed very shortly after with its Video Home System (VHS) format. With Sony being first to the market, they demonstrated their technology to other manufacturers and hoped that other companies would back a single format for the greater good, even going so far as to appeal to Japan’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to enforce Beta as the standard video format. JVC had ideas of their own, and went ahead with the release of VHS anyway.

In the US, the battle came down to three factors — cost, recording time, and picture quality. While Beta offered a slightly higher resolution, lower noise, and better overall picture quality, VHS trumped it in the other categories.

VHS machines were cheaper by far, but the short 60 minute recording time offered by Beta proved to be its downfall — VHS was capable of 120 minutes right out of the box, and Sony was unwilling to extend the recording time of Beta devices, which they said would have compromised picture quality too much. With the ability to record two hours plus, VHS was the choice of the American consumer who wanted to record things like baseball games, movies, or multiple TV programs on a single tape. Additionally, due to its longer recording capabilities, VHS launched the video rental business — allowing people to see Hollywood movies that had been out of circulation in the theaters for years.

As a result, by 1980 VHS dominated 70% of the US home video market, and Sony finally admitted defeat in 1988 and began producing their own VHS recorders. Sony’s error was misreading what the consumer wanted, believing picture quality trumped all other factors — when consumers really wanted an affordable VCR (video cassette recorder) with a large capacity.

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Interestingly enough, Beta received a second life of sorts in its Betacam format, derived from Betamax, became the standard of choice for television news and studio recording. In fact, Betacam’s digital version — DigiBeta — went on to become the most successful professional video tape format in history. -AJW

Thanks to Sony’s Betamax, now you can circle two

How many times have you wanted to watch two shows that are on at the same time. Well, now you can. Because Sony’s remarkable Betamax — available in console (shown) or desk which hooks up to any TV set — can actually videotape something off one channel while you’re watching another channel. Then, when you’re finished watching one show, all you do is push some buttons and you see a tape of the show you would have missed.

Another question: How many times have you had to go somewhere or something at a time when there was something on TV you wanted to see? Well, Sony’s Betamax handles that one also. By setting an automatic timer, you can actually videotape something when you’re not there. Then, when you are there onece again, you can play back a tape of the show you woudl have missed.

Our one-hour tapes are reusable — just record over them and use them over and over again.

Sony’s Betamax. Who said you couldn’t have it both ways?

Rest assured with Sony’s Betamax

Thanks to Sony’s Betamax, he’s not missing the last half hour of the late show.

And the killer is… zzzzzz.

We’ve all been through it. You just can’t keep your eyes open anymjore. No matter what.

Well, thanks to Sony’s Betamax videotape deck, you won’t have to struggle to stay awake. Because Betamax, which plugs into any TV, can automatically videotape the conclusion of that show so that you can play it back the next day.

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The fact is, the SL-8200 Betamax can automatically videotape any show you like, up to two hours, whils you’re doing something else. Even when you’re out of the house, by setting our optional automatic timer.

Betamax can also, believe it or not, actually videotape something off one channel while you’re watching another channel.

And our videotape cassettes are reusable — you just re-record right over them.

With Sony’s Betamax, you’ll never again miss anything you want to see. Rest assured.


Betamax TV ad from 1977

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