Do you still have Betamax movies lying around?

The case centered around Sony's manufacture of...

The case centered around Sony’s manufacture of the Betamax VCR, which used cassettes like this to store potentially copyrighted information (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve never been an early adopter for the sake of having the latest technical toys on the block.

I didn’t buy one of the first videocassette recorders (VCRs), which started coming out in 1972, with the introduction of a home VCR by Phillips.

The ones our friends bought were clunky and awkward and had much poorer image resolution than their tv screens.

Sure, it was cool that they could record something right off the television and watch it whenever or however often they wanted to.

I liked the concept of disentangling time from entertainment, the earliest version of on-demand movies.

Eventually, my husband did the research to determine the best value in VCRs and the format that had the best resolution and we settled on Sony’s Betamax.

It cost more than its competitors but had a much better image resolution.

Betamax was launched by Sony on May 10, 1975, in Japan and in the U.S. the same year.

In 1977, VHS (Video Home System) was released by JVC, founded as an arm of RCA in Japan, the Victor Corporation Japan, but independent since World War II.

While I remember cost as the factor that seemed to tilt the marketplace toward VHS, and could not believe that quality was not going to decide this issue, ultimately, it was recording time that most influenced consumer preference.

Everyone wanted to be able to record a 2-hour movie and only VHS could handle this.

But, before the format wars were won, in 1983 Walt Disney and Universal Studios took Sony to court for making a device that could copy their movies, and charged them with copyright infringement.

The Supreme Court disagreed on several fronts, issuing their decision on January 17, 1984.

VCRs could legitimately be used to “time-shift” the watching of a program consumers could otherwise watch for free anyway.

Blockbuster, the largest chain of home video-rental stores, opened in 1985.

At its peak in 2004, it had 9,000 stores.

Bankrupt in 2010 and sold to Dish Network in 2011, Blockbuster still has 500 stores, but streaming video over the Internet, video-on-demand downloaded to your tv, the mail-in subscription service NetFlix and grocery store kiosk company Redbox have largely overtaken its market.

In 1995, Sony, Phillips, Toshiba and Panasonic invented the DVD (digital videodisk).

In June, 2006, the Blu-ray disc (optical disk storage) was released, a collaboration between consumer electronics and computer hardware manufacturers and the movie industry, initiated by Sony and Phillips.

Sony’s Playstation 3, launched on November 11, 2006, with Blu-ray disc storage, sealing the place of Blu-ray in consumer electronics.

Do you still have VHS tapes? Beta?

Do your grandchildren have Playstations?

Do you watch movies on the computer?

To you and snuggling up with a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie with your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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