Videocassette recorder  

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home video

A device that can record broadcast television programmes, or the images from a video camera for subsequent playback through a television set.


The late 1970s: Mass-market success of the videocassette recorder

It was not until the late 1970s, when European and Japanese companies developed more technically advanced videocassette recorders with more accurate electronic timers and greater tape duration, that the VCR started to become a mass market consumer product. By 1980 there were three competing technical standards, with different, physically incompatible tape cassettes. In 1987, video rental income reached $5.25 billion for the year, surpassing movie theater ticket sales for the first time. Today, movie studios regularly make more money on a film from home video sales and rentals than from the box office.

VHS vs. Betamax: The format war

The two major standards were Sony's Betamax (also known as Betacord or just Beta), and JVC's VHS [Video Home System], which battled for sales in what has become known as the original and definitive format war.

Betamax was first to market in November 1975, and was argued by many to be technically more sophisticated, although many users did not perceive a difference. The first machines required an external timer, and could only record one hour. The timer was later incorporated within the machine as a standard feature.

The rival VHS format, introduced in Japan in September 1976 (and introduced in the United States in July 1977 by JVC) boasted a longer two-hour recording time, with four hours using a "long play" mode (RCA SelectaVision models, introduced in September 1977). Because 2 hours and 4 hours was near-ideal for recording movies and sports-games respectively, the consumer naturally flocked towards VHS rather than the 1-hour-limited Betamax. Although Sony later introduced Beta-II and Beta-III to allow a maximum time of 5+ hours, by that time VHS was already boasting 6, 8, or even 9 hours per tape. Thus VHS had a perceived "better value" in the eye of the consumer during the late 1970s.

Philips Video 2000: No prize for third place

A third format, Video 2000, or V2000 (also marketed as "Video Compact Cassette") was developed and introduced by Philips in 1978, and was sold only in Europe. Grundig developed and marketed their own models based on the V2000 format. Most V2000 models featured piezoelectric head positioning to dynamically adjust the tape tracking. V2000 cassettes had two sides, and like the audio cassette had to be flipped over halfway through their recording time. User switchable record protect levers were used instead of the breakable lugs found on VHS/BetaMax cassettes. The half-inch tape used contained two parallel quarter-inch tracks, one for each side. It had a recording time of 4 hours per side, later extended to 8 hours per side on a few models. V2000 hit the market after its two rivals in early 1979. The last models produced by Philips in 1985 were felt by many to be superior machines to anything else on the market at the time but the poor reputation gained through the limited features and poor reliability of early models, and the by now dominant market share of VHS/Betamax, ensured only limited sales before the system was scrapped shortly after.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Videocassette recorder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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