DescriptionRecording format of magnetic tape for video
ManufacturersSony, BASF, Scotch, Sanyo
Time Period1975-2002
Details6 x Sony L-750
3 x BASF I750
1 x Scotch I750
1 x Sanyo I-250
DimensionsEach tape measures 16 x 10 x 13 cm
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nºUCL201715

Betamax is credited with having sparked the beginning of home video entertainment. Introduced to the US market by Sony in 1975, it was the first analog video tape format available on the consumer market.[1] The top loading tape deck, that used half inch tape, had approximately an hour recording time.[2] For the first time in history Betamax allowed people to view full length feature films from the comfortability of their own homes. It also allowed people to record television broadcasts to be viewed at a later time and for the first time people were able to watch pornography at home, in privacy. [3] Betamax held almost 100% of the market share prior to the introduction of VHS in the US by the Japanese company, Victory Company of Japan (JVC) in 1976. By 1981 Betamax only held a 25% market share, and by 1986 it was clear that VHS had won out the video format war with Betamax only holding a 7.5% market share[4] One of the pitfalls of Betamax was the shorter recording time, VHS offered double the recording time with tapes being able to record over two hours of content. All though Betamax came out with new models that offered extended recording time they never caught up with VHS who had established a strong hold of the market.[5]

By 1988, Sony conceded to the market trends and started producing their own VHS recorders, this however did not mean that they completely stopped selling Betamax. Despite Betamax being the less popular video format model there was still a small group of staunch supporters who believed that Betamax had a higher-level picture quality on domestic television sets. Many consumers also felt that Betamax’s audio-only mode, which allows the full bandwidth to be used exclusively for sounds, made it the superior model on the market.[6] Because of this Sony continued to manufacture Betamax machines until 1993 in the US. Production of Betamax recorders in almost all of the rest of the world came to a halt in 1998, with Japan being the last place the devices were manufacture, ending production in 2002.[7] Sony ceased the production of tapes in 2016 marking the final termination of Betamax from the consumed market.[8] Betamax recording equipment, similar to VHS are now both rarities, found predominately in private collections, and now the first commercially successful video format is a technology of obsolesces.


[1] “Betamax (1975 – 2002).” Museum of Obsolete Media. 2019

[2] Beth Snyder Bulik. “Betamax vs. VHS All over Again?” Advertising Age 77, no. 15 (2006): 20.

[3] “The Betamax Format.” Media College. 2019

[4]Jack Schofield, “Why VHS Was Better than Betamax.” The Gaurdian. 2003

[5] “Betamax (1975 – 2002).” Museum of Obsolete Media. 2019

[6] “The Betamax Format.” Media College. 2019

[7] Beth Snyder Bulik. “Betamax vs. VHS All over Again?” Advertising Age 77, no. 15 (2006): 20.

[8] “Betamax (1975 – 2002).” Museum of Obsolete Media. 2019