History of the VHS

The Video Home System In America

What made video tape recorders unique were their ability to record and play back moving images and sound.  They were recorded sound the same way as an audio-tape recorder, but did it in such a way that allowed for the majority of the width of the tape to be available for the video track.  The 1970s was the period when major steps and improvement were made to video tape recorders, resulting in the eventual creating of the Video Home System standard.  However, during this time several other companies also made attempts to produce a television recording device, hoping the majority of the world would embrace their product.

For the videocassette recorders (VCRs) to become a popular appliance, it needed to be affordable for people to buy and easy for them to operate.  As a result two Japanese companies, Sony and JVC (Japanese Victor Company) developed rival VCR formats in the early 1970s, which would later evolved into the VHS/Betamax Format Wars.  The first VCR to use VHS standard was the Victor HR-3300, and was introduced by the president of JVC on September 9, 1976.  The United States did not receive its first VHS-based VCR, the RCA VBT200, until August 23, 1977.  Despite VHS and Betamax being the major companies in the VCR market, other competitors still existed.[1]

As early as 1963, Philips and a number of smaller companies began to develop videocassette formats.  In 1969, Sony announced the first videocassette format.  Its ¾ inch U-Matic cassette and recorders were commercially introduced in 1971.  U-Matic was successful in attracting smaller educational and business users, but not the general public.  Its formatting allowed only for playback of a recording only to be possible through a special monitor, rather than a television.  Throughout the 1970s VHS and Sony battled each other for dominance in the video recording market.[2]

By the mid 1980s VHS had achieved a supreme dominance in the home VCR market.  Philips abandoned its latest VCR model, the Video 2000, in 1985 and Sony folded to consumer demand by producing VHS VCRs until 1988.  As a result from is victory of Betamax, the Video Home System (VHS) dominated the theater of video recording and video watching.  Today, with DVD and Blu-ray formatting, future generations will never have a shortage of new media to document provided technologies stay around long enough to make an impression.  Many believe that VHS lasted longer than could have been expected.  Very few media formats can expect to match the long life of the VHS today.[2]

[1] Dennis Lim, “Instant Nostalgia? Let’s Go to the Videotape,” The New York Times, 27 January 2008, 1-3.

[1] Pauline Webb and Mark Suggit, eds., An Encyclopedia of Household Innovations: Gadgets and Necessities (Santa Barbra, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2000), s.v. “Video Recorders.”

[2] Ibid

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