It’s the end of an era that we thought had already ended. After nearly three decades of stubborn persistence, Sony has finally chosen to discontinue the Betamax videotape.
For those who missed out on the 80s, Betamax tapes were the main rival for VHSes before it was clear which videocassette format would be most popular. Betamax tapes had some clear benefits – compact size and higher image quality – but VHSes cost less to produce and attracted more publishers. (As legend tells, adult entertainment helped drive the sale of VHS machines more than Hollywood movies.) Although Betamax tapes lost the battle, they continued to find use as a recording format for professional film production. But it’s unclear why Sony was still manufacturing them… or who was using them.
With the advent of streaming platforms that now almost universally work in browsers and on nearly an electronic device, it seems that we’ll never have another “format war” as intense as what Betamax wrought. Device manufacturers and publishers will always fight over who gets the most popular content, but there’s no longer a question of whether one of two whole mediums will become the global standard.
As anyone still setting on their pricey Betamax collection can attest, that’s for the best.