7 Jun: Sony’s Betamax Blunder

VHS won the so-called ‘format wars’ of the 1980s – but before JVC unveiled their VCR system, Sony created the market, with their innovative Japanese launch of Betamax on 7th June, 1975. 

For the first time, consumers could tape shows at home, rewind and fast-forward the best bits, and share cassettes with friends. But Betamax tapes were only one hour long, so they couldn’t contain an entire movie or football game. And Hollywood was unhappy about the technology, triggering a massive lawsuit from Universal Pictures and Walt Disney.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider what role pornography played in VHS’ ultimate defeat of Betamax; explain why video rental shops were such a popular concept; and reveal how, despite Sony’s early advantage, JVC got other manufacturers on-board before poor Betamax could catch up… 

Further Reading:

• ‘June 7, 1975: Before Digital, Before VHS … There Was Betamax’ (WIRED, 2007): https://www.wired.com/2007/06/dayintech-0607/?msclkid=b50fb350d13a11eca7a9948d91685605

• ‘Why VHS was better than Betamax – Jack Schofield’ (The Guardian, 2003): https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2003/jan/25/comment.comment?msclkid=fb5c2af5d13a11ec962eda595e20814a

• ‘The Sony Betamax: It’s Only Purpose Is To Serve You’ (Sony Promotional Video, 1975):

#80s #70s #Technology #Mistakes

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