Betamax bites the bullet

Video format will finally be discontinued.

by Jennie Kermode

Sony Betamax SL-HF150
Sony Betamax SL-HF150 Photo: Hoikka1, licensed under Creative Commons

40 years after it first appeared, Betamax, widely believed to be a superior video format, is finally being discontinued. Sony has announced that it will stop producing compatible tapes in March next year.

Betamax has bee a minority choice since the mid-Eightes, when it was finally overtaken by rival format VHS. Although VHS tapes offered poorer quality, they were longer, making them the natural choice for the film industry and, significantly, for pornography, which was a driving fore in the early adoption of home viewing technology. Although cinemas stood up better than many expected against the increasing availability of home entertainment, dedicated pornography cinemas went through a steady decline as VHS grew in popularity. Both Betamax and VHS would eventually be overtaken by video CDs and DVDs.

Although there are relatively few of them left in circulation, Betamax machines continue to circulate through online auction sites, fetching between £10 and £50 depending on their condition. Second hand blank cassettes retail for around £3.50 each but may well go up in value following today's announcement.

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