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Videotape Standards

Posted by Big Boo on September 20th, 2007

Betamax and VHS videotapesIn the days before DVD and hard disc based Personal Video Recorders we all used videotapes to watch and record our favourite TV programmes and films. To be fair, most people still record off the telly using videotapes to this day, but with the cheapness of DVD players these days, I don’t suppose many pre-recorded videotapes are bought any more.

Back in the early 1980’s was when video recorders first started to become within reach of the man in the street, but you were also forced with a choice of which videotape format to plump for. There were three main home videotape formats to choose from, these being VHS, Betamax and V2000. As we all now know, VHS was the eventual winner of the videotape format wars, and God bless my Dad for making this his choice when he first invested a hefty slab of money on our family’s first video recorder.

VHS stood for Video Home System and was invented by Japanese firm JVC. It wasn’t perhaps the best format in terms of quality of recording, but it eventually won out by virtue of JVC allowing other companies to make video recorders that used the format. This meant that the price of both the recorders and the tapes themselves gradually became cheaper and cheaper as more people adopted the format. Tapes were sold in terms of how many minutes they could record, the most popular size being the good old E180 that could store 3 hours worth of TV. The letter in front of the number could be either E or T, and this denoted whether the tape duration held true for the PAL (European) or NTSC (US/Japan) video standard.

Betamax was Sony’s videotape format, and the technology involved allowed for a far better picture quality to be recorded. Initially it looked as if the format was going to win out, but factors such as VHS tapes being capable of having longer recording times and the fact that only Sony made recorders capable of using the format meant that the format eventually had to concede to VHS. Sony kept making recorders until 1988 however!

Finally, there was the less widely known Video 2000 (or V2000) which was Philips entry to the videotape format war. In some ways it was a better technology than both VHS and Betamax, as the tapes were double sided much like an audio cassette, but it entered the market well after VHS and Betamax, and suffered from only a handful of companies making the recorders, and then the recorders tended to be only available in European countries.

Anybody out there still regularly use a Betamax or V2000 recorder these days? I’m guessing not, but would love to be proven wrong…