FLASHBACK ‘71: As part of J&R’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, we are looking back to the technologies and product wizardry from bygone epochs (like the, uh, ’70s and ’80s).
Sony establishes solid grounding as an innovative manufacturer with tight patents and trademarks. Their products often rely on Sony dedicated parts to help assure integrity and quality control. When it came to creating a home video system, Sony introduced an open-reel video recorder that only had 30 minutes recording time. It never attracted consumer attention. At one point, videocassettes came in two formats and customers needed to choose among them. Sony exclusively supported their format. Consumers, over time, shifted to the other format. As a result, Sony’s Betamax videocassette system is relegated as one of the once promising technologies that passed away.
The first successful consumer video system, the Video Cassette Recorder or VCR, was introduced in 1972 by the Dutch electronics company, Philips. Philips originated the audiocassette in 1963.
The videocassette format was known as the Video Home System or VHS. JVC and Panasonic were the first Asian supporters of VHS and released VCR units by 1973. A typical VHS cassette provided 2 to 6 hours of recording per videocassette.
The next system aimed at the home market, came from Sony in 1975 with the introduction of the Betamax system, casually referred to as “Beta.” Sony presented their system to various electronics manufacturers hoping that a single and agreed upon system would be more profitable for everyone in the industry and less confusing for consumers.
A typical Betamax cassette offered 1-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours of recording. Of course, Sony was endorsing Betamax over VHS and there were many debates as to which format was better.
Unfortunately, Beta was incompatible with VHS and, even though Beta was considered superior by some, more VCR manufacturers opted for VHS than Betamax. By the 1980’s, VHS VCR’s greatly outnumbered Betamax models.
When video rental businesses began, carrying both formats was expensive. Eventually, studios only released movies in VHS. Betamax subsequently passed and those people who owned Betamax machines had to purchase VHS machines.
When camcorders (portable VCR’s with bult-in cameras) were invented, Sony introduced 8mm tape format while other manufacturers used a compact VHS version, VHS-C. The Sony format required used of a dedicated 8mm cassette player or through camcorder’s direct TV connection. JVC created an adapter for VHS-C play on a standard VHS VCR.