|While Sony were launching Betamax, JVC's own domestic format had reached the prototype stage and had been secretly demonstrated to Matsushita, whose own VX system was not yet ready. Sony continued to try to persuade the other companies to back Betamax, even going to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Trade and Industry in an attempt to force their hands.
|But JVC were adamant, and in early 1976, less than a year after Beta arrived, the
VHS format was launched in Japan.
VHS, or Video Home System, was unashamedly aimed at the domestic user. The most obvious difference between VHS and Betamax was the longer running time, two hours as opposed to Betamax's one. At this stage of the story, recording time was the major battleground, since it was the most obvious difference for the normal user.
|(According to the history pages on Sony's own website, many of the technical details of VHS were copied
-- they would use the word stolen -- from Betamax. Sony shared the details of their technology while attempting
to convince the others to back Beta, and were appalled by the similarities when they saw the VHS system. I'm sure
JVC would see things differently, of course...)
A PAL version of VHS reached the UK in 1978, about a month earlier than Betamax. By this time, VHS could boast three-hour tapes; this was possible partly because VHS cassettes were larger, and could therefore hold more tape, but also because of the lower "recording density" of VHS's less demanding performance. Sony had developed their machines from professional systems, and had concentrated on quality, while JVC designed a system which was the minimum acceptable to home users. This philosophy was extended to the VHS machines, which were generally simpler and hence cheaper to make.
A combination of cheapness, playing time and easy rental, plus a greater choice of pre-recorded tapes, eventually saw VHS the victor in the Format War. The format also went on to spawn several sub-formats - the miniature VHS-C in 1984, and the high-band SVHS in 1988.
|You may be surprised that there aren't many VHS machines in our museum. This is partly
because VHS decks are a little dull -- since VHS was the victorious format, all but the very earliest machines
are pretty much as you'd expect, with no interesting oddities. But the main reason is simply that old VHS machines don't
turn up that often -- people hang on to them as long as they work, and only sell them off when they're completely
If you have any suggestions for old VHS machines which really should be in the museum, drop us a line and tell us why!