Betamax vs. VHS

Vintage VCR

The first Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) was a commercial device released in 1971.  The first home-use VCR was released by Philips in 1972, and Betamax was released in 1975.  Others jumped in quickly after, such as JVC's Video Home System (VHS).  Each system had its own media size and they were not interchangeable.  As Sony was evaluating the home video market, they were unaware of JVC's VHS format.  By the time they were made aware of it, they were too close to major Betamax production to halt the line.  The turning point in the war between Betamax and VHS hinged on two factors:  Recording time and price.  The Betamax could only record for 1 hour, but the VHS for 2 hours.

Sony Betamax

The VHS was also chaper than Betamax.  Soon RCA released a VHS format version that had 240 minutes of recording time (after all, a football game takes 4 hours).  The war was on between Betamax and VHS as they attempted to increase recording speeds and maintain video quality (longer recording times meant lower resolution images).  Unfortunately for Betamax, which was a superior product from a resolution perspective, was that the average user did not see that big of a difference in resolution between the two systems.  In addition, JVC licensed their technology to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that wanted to create their own VCR.  This created a huge price war that drove down VCR prices throughout the 1980's.  By 1988, Sony was on the bandwagon, making their own Sony branded VCR.  It is worth noting that although Betamax basically died in the USA, it was still a popular format in Japan until 2002.