Most of us can remember a time when VHS tapes ruled home entertainment. Movie rental stores like Movie Gallery and Blockbuster were hopping on Friday nights when families would come in to try to find a newly released movie for weekend watching. Home movie making was suddenly so much simpler with the invention of the camcorder and video cassette tape.
The VHS changed everything about home entertainment.
But did you know that there was actually another very popular video cassette format that came before the VHS tape?
The Betamax video cassette recorder (VCR) and Betamax tapes were introduced in 1975, about five years after the first videotape recording system became available for commercial use. Betamax was invented by Sony and it was the first VCR system that was used widely for home entertainment purposes. Before the Betamax, VCR prices were exorbitant, and while the Betamax system still cost a pretty penny, it was much more affordable than any of its predecessors.
It actually wasn’t until 1977 when JVC developed their own VCR system known as the Video Home System or VHS. So even though VHS was on the scene after Betamax, it still is better known because the VHS won the “videotape format war.”
The videotape format war was a battle between the different VCR systems on the market, with VHS and Betamax quickly becoming the main contenders. JVC and Sony went head to head to determine which VCR system would become the most widely used - VHS or Betamax. This feud lasted more than a decade, and while both recording formats have their unique qualities, they are very similar which caused the format war to drag on for years. In the end, VHS won despite Betamax having higher resolution (i.e. better video quality). VHS became preferable to most consumers due to its affordability and recording time. VHS tapes were able to store up to 2 hours of footage on a cassette, whereas Betamax tapes could only store 1 hour of footage.
In the end, VHS came out on top over Betamax as the predominant video cassette format. Most of us ended up having VHS VCR systems in our homes instead of Betamax, and some of us may have never even heard of Betamax! Both Betamax and VHS contributed to the advancement of technology in home entertainment, though, and will go down in history as the first commercially sold VCR systems.