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The Rise and Fall of the VHS

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By Katy Sommerfeld

The ‘70s and ‘80s were a whirlwind of culture, fashion, and technology. Bright colors and big hair abounded, reflecting the revolutionary technologies emerging. Kids and teens were flocking to arcades to play the hottest video games while adults were giddy over their new answering machines and Walkman cassette players. The accessibility and affordability of entertainment in the eighties brought more fun and relaxation to the lifestyles of millions, and the continual evolution of technology would pave the way for some of the most advanced technologies we have today.


One of the most underrated yet legendary technologies that this period brought us was the Video Home System, better known as the VHS. This device not only brought all of our favorite movies to the small screen in homes around the world – it also made recording TV programs possible for the first time ever!


So how did the VHS come to be?

Ginsburg’s Gadget


Charles Ginsburg is the man responsible for heading up research for the first practical videotape recorder at Ampex Corporation in the 1950s. This tape recorder was commercialized and used for television and movie production and was very expensive – about $50,000 to be exact! His team later developed more efficient versions of the video tape recorder, which inspired the Sony corporation to develop the first home video tape recorder – Betamax.


Betamax vs. VHS


Betamax was developed by Sony and released in 1975 as a home videotape recorder. JVC released the VHS in Japan in 1976 and then in the US a year later. While Betamax came onto the market first, it was beaten in the “videotape format war” by JVC’s Video Home System for a number of reasons. The VHS weighed less and was cheaper to manufacture and could hold twice the amount of tape, which enabled it play movies while Betamax could not. Although Betamax’s picture quality was superior, the cost-effective and convenient nature of the VHS pushed Sony’s Betamax out of relevancy, and the VHS took first place as the preferred home video recording format. Sony misjudged the market, assuming that better quality video would win consumers over. JVC understood the power of a sale, and the VHS took off and became a beloved format and one of the hottest new technologies of the late 70s.


The Reign and Ruin of the VHS


The VHS tape dominated the home movie market for twenty years. Families all over the world gathered around their televisions to watch their favorite films and home videos on the format. It wasn’t until 1997 when the DVD first came out that the VHS format began to experience a small decrease in popularity. Despite being older, VHS releases continued until 2006 with A History of Violence as the last movie to ever be released on the format. The last VHS player was made in 2016 by Funai Electric in Japan which sealed the format’s fate, and DVD took the throne as the best new home video viewing format.

 

 


The Legacy of VHS


Although today the VHS is mostly obsolete, many of us still have old VHS copies of our favorite films from childhood as well as home videos of special moments with our friends and families. These days you can buy a VCR online on places like eBay, and lots of people are selling rare VHS movies and making a decent buck from their collections!


Even if the days of VHS are long gone, your precious memories don’t have to be! With Legacybox, you can digitize your VHS tapes from the past and store them on a USB or in the cloud for easy access and sharing with friends and family! Just pack your tapes into your Legacybox and send them in for easy digitization. We do all the work for you! Why not ensure that your favorite moments from the past are secure in a format that will last? Use Legacybox to keep the magic of those VHS tapes alive.  

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