Surprising Everyone, Betamax Finally Loses the Format War to VHS

PatrickJS

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Jun 8, 2015
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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 [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/14506-Why-PlayStation-PS4-is-Winning-the-Console-Wars], 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: Sony [http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/10/betamax-dead-long-live-vhs-sony-end-prodution]





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Bindal

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May 14, 2012
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PatrickJS said:
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.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

Henchgoat Emperor
May 15, 2010
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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...
 

flying_whimsy

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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.
 

FPLOON

Your #1 Source for the Dino Porn
Jul 10, 2013
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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...
 

P-89 Scorpion

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flying_whimsy said:
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.
 

Zontar

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Feb 18, 2013
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Bindal said:
PatrickJS said:
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.
 

Major_Tom

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Jun 29, 2008
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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€.
 

Zacharious-khan

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Mar 29, 2011
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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?!
 

Fox12

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Jun 6, 2013
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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.
 

gigastar

Insert one-liner here.
Sep 13, 2010
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I can only imagine they were making them to order, and now the orders have all dried up.

Thats the only reasonable explanation.
 

RandV80

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Oct 1, 2009
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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.
 

Knight Captain Kerr

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May 27, 2011
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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 said:
Great. Just great. Now how am I gonna watch movies?
Why Laserdisc of course!
 

Fdzzaigl

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Mar 31, 2010
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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.
 

J.McMillen

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Sep 11, 2008
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Fdzzaigl said:
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.
 

CrystalShadow

don't upset the insane catgirl
Apr 11, 2009
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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.