Surprising Everyone, Betamax Finally Loses the Format War to VHS

| 10 Nov 2015 18:27

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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