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Sony Betamax in a Sad Farewell to Video World It Helped Create

Image: Sony Betamax in a Sad Farewell to Video World It Helped Create
DVD players go on display at a Tokyo store in 2004 – two decades after the famous battle between VHS and Betamax – as electronics makers geared up for another video format war.  (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 Nov 2015 09:03 AM

Sony's Betamax video cassettes are finally dying a stubborn death, with the company announcing that it would stop selling them in March 2016.

The announcement comes 40 years after the Betamax debut and 30 years after the format was outpaced by the rival VHS format, said the Wall Street Journal.

Sony said more than 18 million Betamax video tape recorders have been purchased internationally since 1975. Some 50 million Betamax cassettes were shipped at the peak of its popularity in 1984.

"Sometimes the tape keeps going after you thought it had run out. But three decades?" wrote Paula Vasan of CNET.com. "It turns out that Sony is still making videocassette tapes for its Betamax video recording systems, largely vanquished from the gadget scene in the 1980s."

Sony started selling Betamax a year before rival JVC put out the VHS cassette, said BBC News. While loyal Betamax fans lauded it as being a superior format, others said VHS recording length and cheaper cost allowed it to pull away from Betamax in the marketplace.

Sony charged $2,295 for its first video-tape recorder while Betamax 60-minute cassettes were going for $15.95, said the Journal.

"Beta began with 90-minute taping capability; VHS countered a year later with four hours," the Journal said in a 1984 piece chronicling the Betamax war with VHS. "Beta came back with visual-scanning features such as a fast-forward without the loss of the picture and five hours of taping time: VHS responded with scanning and eight-hour recording capability."

"Beta introduced stereo sound and VHS caught up. So Beta moved ahead to high-fidelity sound of even better quality. Now new VHS models will offer improved high fidelity, too – and Beta may be running out of room for another leap in technology."

CNET.com noted that videotapes long ago gave way to DVD and Blu-ray discs and now to digital video recorders and video streaming.

"Betamax was also at the center of a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984, which established that recording video at home was legal, not a violation of copyrights, as long as it was for personal use," said Vasan.


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Sony's Betamax video cassettes are finally dying a stubborn death, with the company announcing that it would stop selling them in March 2016.
sony, betamax, video
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2015-03-11
Wednesday, 11 Nov 2015 09:03 AM
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