Betamax was launched in May 1975. That was about a year before JVC released its VHS tape.
In September 1975, the Popular Mechanics magazine mentioned Sony Betamax video tape recorder as “the only video player recorder sold in the USA, specifically for home use.”
It came with a 19-inch color TV set with a hefty price tag of $2300 (equivalent to $10, 900 in 2019).
It boasted a separate tuner, allowing you to watch one show, while recording another for later viewing.
Betamax : First Consumer Video Format
Betamax was the first consumer video format and it controlled the home video market before the emergence of VHS.
It’s 12.7mm tape was modelled after the 19mm U-matic tape.
Betamax offered superior video quality but did not provide sufficient recording time – just an hour of recording duration.
VHS, on the other hand, allowed home users to record whole movies.
Betamax Fights Back
To counter VHS’ longer recording time, Sony introduced the Betamax SL – 8200 VCR, which allowed for recording up to 2 hours.
Still, it couldn’t compete against VHS VCRs which allowed recording of up to 4 hours, which in the ensuing years increased to 6 and 8 hours.
VHS Offered Wider Movie Selection
Another reason for VHS’ popularity was the availability of a wide range of movies in video rental stores. Choice of movies on Betamax was rather limited.
VHS players and tapes were also cheaper than their Betamax counterparts.
Betamax Closes Shop
Later, after Betamax lost out to VHS, its machines sold for lower prices than VHS VCRs but the market wasn’t really interested in the format.
Although Betamax lost out to VHS in the home entertainment scene, players continued to be produced until 2002 in Japan.
In the USA production stopped in 1993.
In November 2015, Sony announced that it will stop selling Betamax tapes after March 2016.