Betamax v VHS

Two things about this video – first the Sony v JVC battle but then the presenter of the video. This is the background:

In 1976 Sony introduced the Betamax video cassette recorder. It catalyzed the “on demand” of today by allowing users to record television shows, and the machine ignited the first “new media” intellectual property battles. In only a decade this revolutionary machine disappeared, beaten by JVS’s version of the cassette recorder.

What he says and some comments below pretty well cover it:

# Betamax lost out because of licensing. The machine was a closed, proprietary system that cost much more to buy licenses for. The VHS system was the first system that allowed manufacturers cheap buy-in on patents and cheap on-going (per device) costs, that maintained the standard.

The engineering? These two machines didn’t define their respective destinies. There were many iterations after these machine that did that. These machines were first-shots of a video format war that was about Sony attempting to lock-out a market (their suggestion that the machine should be the national standard of Japan) and to extract very expensive manufacturing deals.

JVC needed manufacturing capacity, and used FRAND to do that. Within 3 years, Akai, Matsushita, JVC, Sharp, RCA, Rank, were all making machines at full capacity, driving down costs further. So this wasn’t so much an engineering battle. It was a licensing, manufacturing capacity war.

Also – The duplication machines were a factor. The pornography industry in the US saw these machines as a revenue source. Porn distributors wanted to buy Sony Beta, but Sony wouldn’t sell the duplication machines. Panasonic did… If you want to sell lots of something – give it to the porn industry.. Good enough was just that…


# For the consumer, the big deal difference would probably be that you could record whole movies with the VHS. If I were buying a video recorder back in 1983, it would be this factor that would determine which one I would purchase.

Now to this “engineer guy”. There were a few offputting things, from any moniker with “guy” in it, suggesting he’s the sole authority, to the way he plasters himself over the machines, there’s too much intrusion by the presenter for mine.

Similar, IMHO, is The History Guy with his gimmick. Everyone tries to make his or her way, don’t get me wrong, but someone like Mark Felton doesn’t intrude so much, wanting to be the star.

Maybe this sums it up for me:

# I was kind of disappointed you didn’t go into more details about how they work, but still nice to see a new video.

Before you take me apart about these highly opinionated and personalised posts you’re reading now, you chaps and chapesses also give your opinions and so you should – not much use if you don’t lay it out for readers to consider. But you don’t annoy, whereas the history and engineering guys do. Wonder why.

There’s something similar with that Walkin’ Shoes band – a German husband and wife playing US oldies country rock, even pop. Nothing wrong with that in itself, the hubby can play and arrange, the wife is a honey to feast the eyes on and she carries the act, also very well preserved for her age. They do their thang and are good at clubs and festivals wanting ‘good time’ music.

There’s just something though, can’t quite define it and I’m not alone in this – someone suggested that in one song, she’s only pretending to play guitar. Ersatz? Maybe the thing is that it’s all too contrived, controlled, the comments section is switched off, there’s no interaction with fans … you watch and like the piece … or you don’t. End of. Nothing soars nor plummets, there’s nothing raw … it just is. Sure it’s nice, her gyrating, but for how long will that static scene satisfy?

Not important, any of this, compared to world events just now I suppose.

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11 comments for “Betamax v VHS

  1. During the decline of Betamax I vaguely recall them being used to record audio in recording studios.
    Much cheaper than those 2-inch AGFA reels.

  2. Betamax was technically a better solution, but VHS was first with the larger capacity tapes, which allowed one to record a whole movie on a single tape, and even more important, record the whole football game on a single tape, and a huge advertising campaign.

    Bye-bye Betamax.

  3. For the first thirty years of my life progress meant just that. There were improvements across all aspects of life, new developments, new inventions all made things better. The last thirty plus years have inverted that. Almost every new development has resulted in poorer quality right across the board. No wonder that progress is the name taken by the spoilers.

  4. Yes, Andy! It seems to me there is a connection to the time we really started sending everything to ‘you know where’ to be built so the rest of our Western countries could be pollution free.

    Cheaper too. Now how does that work, to send manufacturing across to the other side of the planet and it still be cheaper? Does manufacturing there not cause pollution? Oh no, of course that vast place has no pollution! Hmmmm? I have many thoughts on both of those topics.

    Also….a good place to hide things while ‘nourishing’ them. Seems familiar, that thought.

    Also, as we swept our houses (countries as well as our hearts…minds) clean from so much muck and pollution, the void had to be filled. It has been replaced with much worse than before. That idea seems familiar to me too. Where have I heard that?

  5. Labor is so cheap there. Our leaders care so much for humans. They really do. No one is exploited anywhere ever.

    We must look under rugs near and far and discover that our attention has often been diverted from what is right under our very noses and under every nose. That is what this and many blogs and other outlets are doing. Them are trying to snuff them out however:

    I have a friend who had to visit a therapist years ago. The therapist asked about the strife in her family. She answered, ‘My family has no strife!’ The therapist laughed.

    My friend told me how rude she thought that crazy therapist was. The therapist said every family has problems.

    ‘Not ours. My family never argues or hollers at one another!’

    She said the therapist laughed again! Crazy therapist. Crazy friend. Crazy me. Crazy you. Crazy world!

  6. Back in the early PC days Sony invented the Minidisc, like Betamax, technically they were excellent. I believe they used what was essentially a small rewritable CD and they used a compression system which was far superior to the early MP3 system to maximise capacity. But then they ruined the idea by keeping the compression system secret and refusing to make a computer data version of the drive. Had they licensed the compression algorithm onto a chip with a licence fee of micropence I think they would have eliminated MP3s and made a fortune. Had they allowed a computer drive minidisc unit they could have replaced almost every 3.5 inch 1.2Mb floppy drive on the planet. Reports at the time suggested they were banned by their music publishing dept which was starting to release albums on Minidisc and was scared a computer version would be used for no-loss music copying. (copying from Minidisc unit to another could only be done via an analoge link to ensure loss of quality). That’s another fortune they missed by putting short term protectionism ahead of their and the public good, just like the excessive licencing fees of Betamax.

  7. From the “next week’s news” segment – WeekEnding (BBC Radio 4, sometime during 1990/1):

    The video for the chronically untrendy is released… on Betamax only.

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