The History of the VHS Tape:
One of the most underrated yet legendary technologies 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!
What does VHS mean?
VHS literally stands for Video Home System, and it was invented as a way to bring movies and videos to everyone’s homes.
So how did the VHS come to be?
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 to 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.
When were VHS tapes discontinued?
The VHS tape dominated the home movie market for twenty years. 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!
Technical Specifications for VHS Tapes:
- A VHS tape is a 7 ⅜ inch wide and 1 inch thick plastic covered tape.
- The Oxide-coated Mylar magnetic tape inside the casing is a ½ inch wide.
- Normal tapes have a maximum record time of 3 hours. Thin tapes can record up to 6 hours.
- Vertical resolution - 486 lines (NTSC) | 576 lines (PAL)
- Horizontal resolution - 240 lines
- Bandwidth - ~3 MHz
Conversion Options for VHS Tapes:
It’s such a blessing to be able to convert your VHS tapes to digital. We’re going to give you four methods to digitize your VHS tapes.
This option is essentially the bootleg DVD method of copying your VHS tapes. What you’ll want to do is play the VHS on a TV or projector with a camera pointed at it on a tripod. The quality definitely leaves much to be desired, and there’s no guarantee that someone won’t walk in front of the screen while you’re recording.
Another way to convert your media is by purchasing a VCR and DVD recorder. You take the recorder and connect it to a DVD recorder using RCA cables. Take the VHS tape and insert it into the VCR. Likewise, take a blank DVD into the DVD recorder. Press the play button on the VCR and record your media from the DVD recorder.
This option takes several steps. You’ll need to purchase an analog-to-digital adapter and a VCR if you don’t have one in the attic somewhere. If your computer has a disc burner then you’re in good shape! If it doesn't, then you’ll need to find a friend who does or buy one. Lastly, you’ll need to make sure you buy some DVD burning software. Take the VCR and connect it to your (or your friend’s) computer using that fancy analog-to-digital adapter. Insert the VHS tape you want to digitize into said VCR. Again, you’ll put a blank DVD into the computer. Use the directions provided by the DVD burning software you got and presto!
Let a professional handle it. Legacybox does one thing: it digitizes stuff. That means the mountain of VHS tapes that you need to have digitized can be their headache instead of yours. They’ll send you a box, you’ll put your tapes in there, and they’ll digitize them and send them back to you. It’s so easy, affordable, and stress-free, I’m not quite sure why you would really consider anything else.
FAQ's for VHS Tapes:
Q: What is the best VHS to DVD converter?
A: There are quite a few VHS to DVD converters on the market, but the Diamond Video Capture VC500 is among the best available. Versatile and equipped with various functionality, it offers customers great usability throughout the process of converting and preserving memories from those priceless VHS home videos. Diamond Video Capture VC500 also comes with a copy of PowerDirector, a great video editing software so you can improve the quality of your original video.
Q: How much does it cost to convert VHS to a DVD?
A: To convert your own VHS tapes to DVD, you can buy software, such as the Diamond Video Capture VC500 for $39.99, plus conversion time (since time is money, right?). For professional mail-in VHS to DVD services, the lowest bundled price is approximately $70 for up to two tapes.
Q: Do VHS tapes deteriorate over time?
A: Yes. Several factors are responsible for the deterioration of VHS tapes. From improper storage (too hot/humid/cold) to normal wear and tear to withstanding father time, the average lifespan of a VHS tape is between 15-30 years before the magnetic tape will begin to decay and cause a significant dip in audio and video quality.
Q: How do you preserve VHS tapes?
A: Even tapes stored in the most ideal environments will still decay with time. There’s no escaping it. However, you can help delay the process with proper storage and care. Here are a few ways to better preserve your VHS tapes:
- Keep your tape in its box when not in use
- Store tapes upright (do not stack) in a cool, dry and dark place
- Avoid touching the magnetic tape. This will prevent oil from your skin from interfering with functionality
- Keep your tapes away from magnets and speakers, as they tend to have magnets in their construction and can interfere with the tapes’ magnetic makeup
- Don’t leave tapes in the VCR when not viewing
- Handle your tapes with care when using them
Q: Can I transfer VHS to DVD at home?
A: Yes. Buying conversion equipment, such as the Diamond Video Capture VC500 or other compatible devices will allow you to transfer VHS to DVD at home, DIY-style.
Q: What’s the lifespan of a VHS tape?
A: Though a VHS tape’s life expectancy varies, on average, they deteriorate up to 20 percent over the course of 10 to 25 years.
How to Store Your VHS Tapes:
VHS tapes will naturally deteriorate over time! Here are some tips on how to care for your VHS memories:
- Store your tapes where the temperature doesn’t get extremely hot (the attic 😳) and where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate often. Humidity and sunlight aren’t their friends either.
- Try not to touch the physical tape itself. That’s why it has a fancy plastic case!
- Keep your tape in the cardboard box it came in if possible. (we know. It’s like 1000 years old, but humor us).
- Rewind the tape before you store it
- Keep them away from magnets and speakers (they can erase them!)
Fun Facts About VHS Tapes:
Whether you’re a home theater buff or just a casual tape lover, here are some fun facts about VHS that you didn’t know you didn’t know.
1. FIRST FILM EVER RELEASED ON VHS: THE YOUNG TEACHER
The South Korean drama, The Young Teacher, was the first film to be released for home VHS consumption. Considering the first VCRs were released in 1976, it makes perfect sense that the first movies would also accompany it in the same year. So why was this movie the first to be released on VHS? Who knows! If you’re into volleyball and obscure trivia, you might want to check out this overlooked gem. Otherwise, I’d keep that 90 minute run time reserved for something more...fulfilling.
2. FIRST AMERICAN FILMS RELEASED ON VHS: THE SOUND OF MUSIC, PATTON, AND M*A*S*H*
Let’s be real: the 1970s wasn't a great time for ultra-classic movies until the Star Wars franchise came around. That’s why the first films from America on VHS were years old on their release. The Sound of Music, Patton, and M*A*S*H* were all older classics that were re-released to the public in this new, easy to consume format. We hope you saved up; a new VHS movie back then was around $72 each in today’s dollars.
3. TITANIC WAS THE ONLY MOVIE AVAILABLE ON VHS AND IN THEATERS AT THE SAME TIME.
We’ll have to double check the math, but due to Titanic’s extremely long runtime, it was already out on video by the time the first screening finished. All kidding aside, Titanic was an insanely popular film. In fact, people were still watching it in theaters so much, that it stayed in the box office even after its release date for home video. Who else remembers having to change the cassettes half way through the movie because the whole thing wouldn’t fit on one tape?
4. THE LAST VHS EVER MADE: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Despite some disagreement, Hollywood says that the last film ever widely released on VHS was A History of Violence. This 2005 film starring Viggo Mortensen is an underrated drama that follows a small town guy who had to defend himself from robbers. Even though this is a great film that was nominated for a few Academy Awards, its staying power wasn’t really noteworthy. Most people won’t remember the movie itself, it will always be known as the last major release on the outgoing VHS format.
5. SOME VHS CASSETTES ARE WORTH SERIOUS CASH.
VHS tapes are highly sought after and can collect a pretty hefty price tag! For example, if you own the original Star Wars trilogy, you could fetch yourself $40 or more. Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks, a cult classic, can net you around a grand. Some sellers list the Black Diamond version of Beauty and the Beast at $16,000! Whether anybody will pay that is up for debate, but some people are trying! Even though VHS tapes are out of style, they were king for a solid three decades. There’s a good chance that nobody is reading this sentence anymore, because they’re too busy checking their VHS collection for a copy of Beauty and the Beast.