Sony announced it is finally discontinuing popular recording format… uh… BETAMAX next year.
Sony recently issued a press release stating that they will be discontinuing production of Betamax videocassettes in March 2016. According to the same release, the company ceased production of Betamax players in 2002 and Betamax camcorders in 2005.
Look at this ancient artifact.
Upon hearing the announcement, many were shocked to learn that Beta had been in production at all since VHS won the “format wars” in the early ‘80s with Sony conceding that loss in 1988 with the production of their first VHS videocassette recorders.
The Betamax format was introduced by Sony in 1975 and went up against rival JVC’s VHS (or Video Home System) format. Despite the perceived higher quality of images on Beta cassettes, the format floundered against VHS in the United States due to the lower price of VHS players and the longer recording time available on the VHS tapes. The original Betamax tapes could only record one hour of programming—a fatal flaw.
It has been argued that the porn industry’s decision to become an early adopter of the VHS format was a deciding factor in that format’s dominance, as home-viewing of pornography was one of the primary drivers of the early videocassette industry.
Ad from back cover of a 1979 issue of Hustler magazine. Call the porn professionals to ask if you should choose VHS or Beta. Hint: They’re going to tell you VHS.
Betamax hung around past its perceived expiration date due to its continued use (as a superior tape format) in local television production, particularly ENG (electronic news gathering) purposes. As Sony’s superior professional BetaCam format and then digital video became the standard for television production, Betamax became obsolete—still its surprising to learn it has continuously been in production for 40 years past the advent of VHS, past the advent of DVD, past the advent of Blu-ray, and past the advent of hard-drive recorders and digital streaming.
RIP Betamax. We hardly knew ye.
Here’s a 1978 commercial when Beta was some hot shit:
H/T: The Guardian