VHS is still NOT dead – VCR Myths Debunked

VHS tape

VHS is still NOT dead – Some people thought VHS had died out over 10 years ago. They were wrong, VCR Myths Debunked.

The Video Home System (VHS) is a standard for consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes. Developed by Victor Company of Japan (JVC) in the early 1970s, it was released in Japan in late 1976 and in the USA in early 1977.

From the 1950s, magnetic tape video recording became a major contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized video tape recorders (VTRs). At that time, the devices were used only in expensive professional environments such as television studios and medical imaging (fluoroscopy). In the 1970s, videotape entered home use, creating the home video industry and changing the economics of the television and movie businesses. The television industry viewed videocassette recorders (VCRs) as having the power to disrupt their business, while television users viewed the VCR as the means to take control of their hobby.

In the 1980s and 1990s, at the peak of VHS’s popularity, there were videotape format wars in the home video industry. Two of the formats, VHS and Betamax, received the most media exposure. VHS eventually won the war; dominating 60 percent of the North American market by 1980 and succeeding as the dominant home video format throughout the tape media period.

► VHS development

In 1971, JVC engineers Yuma Shiraishi and Shizuo Takano put together a team to develop a consumer-based VTR. By the end of 1971 they created an internal diagram titled “VHS Development Matrix”, which established twelve objectives for JVC’s new VTR. These included:

☆ The system must be compatible with any ordinary television set.
☆ Picture quality must be similar to a normal air broadcast.
☆ The tape must have at least a two-hour recording capacity.
☆ Tapes must be interchangeable between machines.
☆ The overall system should be versatile, meaning it can be scaled and expanded, such as connecting a video camera, or dub between two recorders.
☆ Recorders should be affordable, easy to operate and have low maintenance costs.
☆ Recorders must be capable of being produced in high volume, their parts must be interchangeable, and they must be easy to service.

In early 1972 the commercial video recording industry in Japan took a financial hit. JVC cut its budgets and restructured its video division, shelving the VHS project. However, despite the lack of funding, Takano and Shiraishi continued to work on the project in secret. By 1973 the two engineers had produced a functional prototype.

► Before VHS

After several attempts by other companies, the first commercially successful VTR, the Ampex VRX-1000, was introduced in 1956 by Ampex Corporation. At a price of US$50,000 in 1956 (over $400,000 in 2016’s inflation), and US$300 (over $2,000 in 2016’s inflation) for a 90-minute reel of tape, it was intended only for the professional market.

Kenjiro Takayanagi, a television broadcasting pioneer then working for JVC as its vice president, saw the need for his company to produce VTRs for the Japan market, and at a more affordable price. In 1959, JVC developed a two-head video tape recorder, and by 1960 a color version for professional broadcasting. In 1964, JVC released the DV220, which would be the company’s standard VTR until the mid-1970s.

In 1969 JVC collaborated with Sony Corporation and Matsushita Electric (Matsushita was then parent company of Panasonic and is now known by that name, also majority stockholder of JVC until 2008) in building a video recording standard for the Japanese consumer. The effort produced the U-matic format in 1971, which was the first format to become a unified standard. U-matic was successful in business and some broadcast applications (such as electronic news-gathering), but due to cost and limited recording time very few of the machines were sold for home use.

Soon after, Sony and Matsushita broke away from the collaboration effort, in order to work on video recording formats of their own. Sony started working on Betamax, while Matsushita started working on VX. JVC released the CR-6060 in 1975, based on the U-matic format. Sony and Matsushita also produced U-matic systems of their own.

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VHS is still NOT dead – VCR Myths Debunked