If you’re like my parents, you’re sitting in a Library of Congress-esque treasure trove of VHS tapes that may or may not be worth thousands of dollars. In the case that you are one of those folks who’s still sitting on a mountain of tapes thinking, “Well, heck, I might watch them someday,” you might like to know what VHS means and where they came from.
VHS tapes are the evolution of magnetic tape storage that had been iterated upon for around 70 years before their invention. VHS literally stands for Video Home System, and it was invented as a way to bring movies and videos to everyone’s homes. Judging from my parent’s collection of 80s cartoons that they’ll never get rid of, I’d say mission accomplished.
VHS as a format was released in 1977 in the United States by JVC, a Japanese company, and it quickly became the go-to video format for basically everything. The high storage capacity, resilient and strong casing, and affordable playback/recording equipment made VHS an instant hit for consumers.
In addition to being an extremely consumer-friendly format, JVC did something truly extraordinary: they made VHS technology open standard. That means that they didn’t patent or trademark the designs or the technology, instead allowing other companies to make their own versions of VHS tapes. VHS was essentially open source before open source existed.
It’s hard to argue with the results. Practically every home in the world had a VCR in the 80s, 90s, and early 00s, and VHS tapes were still being manufactured all the way until 2016. I wanted to end this article with a mind blowing fact about the number of VHS tapes that were sold from 1977 to 2016, but it looks like that number doesn’t exist.
Even though VHS tapes and VCRs aren’t in retail stores anymore, they played a huge part in bringing videos to the masses. Thanks to the open-mindedness of JVC, VHS became a worldwide phenomenon that changed the way we all consume home media. On a separate note, who else is going through their old tape collection to see if there are any valuable gems in there?