On Tuesday, Sony – a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation – announced on the company’s Japanese website that it will stop producing Betamax video tapes in March 2016.
Betamax are videocassette recorders, as well as video tapes developed by Sony and first released in Japan in May 1975. Betamax was first introduced in the United States in November 1975. The company ceased to make Betamax recorders in 2002, but it continued the production of Betamax video tapes for their die-hard fans.
When Sony first introduced Betamax recorders and tapes forty years ago, it practically contributed to what we currently know as home video. Sony’s innovative technology allowed people to record movies and TV shows at home.
Pete Doherty, video producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that he still remembers the time he watched Michael Jackson’s hit song Thriller on Betamax.
Before Betamax, when people missed a show on TV they had to wait for the repeat, but the new technology changed that. What’s more, that was not the only thing that Sony’s new technology changed.
Universal Studios sued Sony for copyright infringement, because it was threatened by piracy. In 1984, the case made it to the Supreme Court of the United States. Betamax won the battle and changed copyright laws, giving people the right to record movies or TV shows at home for later viewing.
Sony’s first rival (to whom it had lost market share) was Victor Company of Japan, Ltd, commonly known as JVC, a professional electronics corporation in Japan. JVC developed the Video Home System (VHS) video recorder in 1970.
Although the Video Home System had lower quality than Betamax, it could store more data and was cheaper, which is why it turned into the industry standard. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Video Home System was eventually replaced by the DVD (digital video disc, or digital versatile disc) developed by Sony, Toshiba, Philips, and Panasonic in 1995.
The DVD was then pushed aside by the Blu-ray Disk, which was released in June 2006. Nowadays online streaming is what people mostly use.
According to the Agence France-Presse, the sales for Betamax tapes peaked in 1984 with about 50 million cassettes sold.
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