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Betamax vs VHS: How Sony’s Cassette Recorder Failed

In this video The Engineer Guy gives us a brief history of Betamax and why it lost to VHS in the original home video format war.

Sony and Victor Company of Japan (JVC) both came out with consumer-level analog videotape-based recording formats in the mid-70s. Both solved the problem of how to store information compactly on a tape. The innovative rotating magnetic heads used by VHS and Betamax dramatically reduced the amount of tape needed to store a movie. Whereas before you would have needed two 7 inch reels, you could now fit an entire movie into a cassette.

Sony’s Betamax machine, released in Japan on May 10, 1975, had better image quality and was better built. JVC’s VHS device, introduced in Japan on September 9, 1976, was lighter, cheaper and sported longer recording times. In the end, it was VHS’ dominance in the video rental market that made them victorious over Betamax.