Monday 26 August 2019

It's the end of an era: Sony bids a fond farewell to Betamax cassette tapes

Sony has announced the end of production of Betamax tapes, 40 years after their introduction and 28 years after losing format war to VHS.

The last Betamax cassette tapes will be produced by Sony in March 2016
stock photo
The last Betamax cassette tapes will be produced by Sony in March 2016 stock photo
A Sony Betamax player Credit:Sony website

Sarah-Jane Murphy

It's the end of a technological era.

Sony will cease producing Betamax video cassette tapes in March 2016.

The Japanese company has been manufacturing them since they introduced them to the market in 1974. 

In the 1970's Betamax became engaged in a format war with rival video cassette type VHS, produced by Japanese firm JVC.

Sony offered JVC a license to use Betamax cassettes in their machines, but JVC instead opted to develop their own open format and thus prevent Sony from dominating the market.

Then in 1974, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry ordered the Japanese electronics manufacturers to standardise on one format, rather than have multiple incompatible formats.

However JVC convinced its major stakeholder Matsushita, Japan’s largest electronics manufacturer, responsible for the Panasonic brand, to back VHS.

Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Sharp followed suit with JVC unveiling a VHS player in 1976, forcing the Japanese government to abandon its video format plans.

VHS became a more widely adopted format for the video cassette, which allowed VHS to charge lower prices than Betamax.

The lower cost factor meant that the pornography industry chose VHS as the format of choice for its home videos, and this is considered the turning point in the war that spurred VHS on to victory.

In 1988, Sony launched its own VHS video cassette recorder, tacitly acknowledging that Betamax had been defeated.

Sony’s last Betamax recorder was produced in 2002, but the company will continue to produce tapes until March 2016.

Video cassettes lingered until the introduction of the DVD in 1995 by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic.

Movie studios adopted the DVD format due to its superior video quality and durability.

In 2003/2004 affordable home DVD video recorders appeared on the markert and replaced VCRs.

Farewell Betamax, we shared some great times together.

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