Sony Just Killed Betamax. Wait–What?

The Great Format War of the 1980s pitted Sony’s Betamax video system against JVC’s VHS. Although Betamax was superior in many ways, JVC’s lenient licensing terms and the three hour capacity of a tape allowed VHS to spread more quickly. Video rental stores that once carried both formats eventually dumped Beta and consumers who chose wrong ended up with machines they couldn’t use.

Beta was dead. Except that it wasn’t.

While it may have disappeared everywhere else, Beta was kept alive in Japan all these years because it proved to be impossible to kill. Until now.  Sony has announced that after 40 years, it is ceasing production of Beta tapes.

Introduced in 1975, the Sony Betamax LV1901 cost about $2500 USD (about $8300 in today’s cash) and came inside a nicely crafted wooden console complete with a 19-inch colour TV. Blank tapes started at $35. Each. Check out this promo video.

Meanwhile, the VHS machine (and by the way, “VHS” stands for “Video Home System”) introduced in 1976 cost about $1,300 USD (about $4600 today) and cassettes were $20.

Sony stopped making Beta machines in 2002 but they kept producing the blank tapes because consumer use in Japan remained high. That, however, has now officially come to an end. Please tell me you’re not featuring nostalgic.

Read more here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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