Sony to end production of Betamax
November 10, 2015 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Sony has announced that it will stop its production of Betamax video tapes in March of next year.

First introduced in 1975, Sony's betamax eventually lost out to JVC's VHS as a consumer format.

According to betmaxcollectors.com:

The first home Video Recorder to hit the markets May 10th, 1975 the LV-1901 and the VCR inside, an SL-6200. Sony during the 1970s and 80s used the term 'VTR' (Video Tape Recorder) while all other brands Beta and VHS manufacturers used the term 'VCR' (Video Cassette Recorder). The 1970s and prior, real to real tape recorders for studios etc. were called VTRS. It wasn't until JVC invented VHS the term VCR came along. Betamax was the first format to start the home video recording craze. Since 1975 technology has gone a long way. Since then the format is now pretty much forgotten, other than collectors etc."

Previously:

Save the BetaMax!!!

Betamax RIP?
posted by mandolin conspiracy (85 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
So it turns out I was right all along - Betamax is inferior - Finally !
posted by AGameOfMoans at 4:19 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's sort of like hearing that Ford is going to stop production of the Edsel.
posted by HuronBob at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Now how am I supposed to tape Buggy Whip Master Allstars?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


What do you mean we're not making steam engines anymore?
posted by eriko at 4:24 PM on November 10, 2015


Sweet. Having bought a whole bunch of blanks in the early 2000s when I got a Betamax for nostalgia purposes, my investment shall soon pay off.

Um, if anyone needs Betamax tapes. Let me know.
posted by hwyengr at 4:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


The clock is ticking on VHS Village.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:25 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh no! How else will I record my video now? :(
posted by bwerdmuller at 4:35 PM on November 10, 2015


TIL that VHS tapes are still in production; I'm sure there are sadder factories to work at, but none spring immediately to mind
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


That's sort of like hearing that Ford is going to stop production of the Edsel.

Sure, if there were an industry that only drove Edsels because they had significant advantages for that industry that justified the extra cost.

Just because consumers didn't use Beta doesn't mean it was a worthless format.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


TIL that VHS tapes are still in production; I'm sure there are sadder factories to work at, but none spring immediately to mind

Well, everybody at the Betamax factory is getting laid off soon, so...
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:44 PM on November 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Fascinating that Sony killed off the Aibo and Minidisc before Betamax. What an odd company.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2015 [27 favorites]


This is only so they can release Betamax Pro tapes that work almost the same way except after every use they spend 30-60 seconds trying to connect to a server to report your recording viewing habits. They will also rewind a random length of time in order to prevent you from resuming where you left off.

Sorry. I have a Sony Blu-Ray Player and my rage at the blinking off message...... it bubbles over.
posted by srboisvert at 4:45 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It outlasted Minidiscs, I guess?

I really liked Minidiscs.
posted by selfnoise at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm going to have to find a new format for my Videodrome collection.
posted by neckro23 at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


The burglar who stole my family's Betamax (with my brother's He-Man tape still in it, much to his chagrin) in the mid-80s must be kicking himself.
posted by sobarel at 4:47 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Bet it was Skeletor.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:48 PM on November 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


This is like when you find out that a celebrity has died at the age of 102 when you thought they died 10 years ago at the age of 92 and you don't know whether to be sad that they died or happy that they lived an extra 10 years.
posted by janey47 at 4:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [38 favorites]


Come on, NFL, Spygate was like 8 years ago, there's no need to destroy the whole supply chain just to punish the Patriots....
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:51 PM on November 10, 2015


I bought a used Betamax machine off a co-worker in 1980. I paid $700.00.
posted by davebush at 4:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Did some old Sony exec retire/die?
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:00 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


It wasn't until JVC invented VHS the term VCR came along.

Even better, I knew tons of people who used the term "VHS" to refer to both the machines as well as the tapes. i.e. "Put a tape in the VHS"

I imagined a room full of JVC executives smiling contentedly.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 PM on November 10, 2015


I love how these are called "collector's items" now. It makes me think of the Cowboy Bebop episode where Spike and Jet go on an adventure to find an old VCR to play an old tape that happens to be childhood footage of Faye. It's a really endearing episode and totally plays to nostalgic feelings of old home recordings and of youth and family and being a kid, goofing off on your own.
posted by gucci mane at 5:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have a mint VHS edition of 'Wizards' just opened and am watching now.
posted by clavdivs at 5:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am now setting the clock.
posted by clavdivs at 5:21 PM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


SET IT TO 1975!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:22 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Betamax has a much warmer, more natural look and sound than digital video, so I expect that true videophiles like myself will stick with it. Perhaps production of Betamax cassettes will just have to go underground, joining the custom/black market Beta machine industry.
posted by Flashman at 5:23 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm guessing Betamax still existed because almost-the-same Betacam was an industry-standard tape format in the professional sphere (widely used by TV studios, ad agencies, other companies working with broadcast video, etc)
posted by anonymisc at 5:24 PM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


From the wiki link "A blank Betamax-branded tape will work on a Betacam deck, and a Betacam-branded tape can be used to record in a Betamax deck". They're wildly different formats, but the cassette and tape are physically similar.

So the question is, is the actual story that Sony has discontinued Betacam?
posted by anonymisc at 5:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This reminds me that I need to digitize my Beta copy of the superior version of The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special — as it first aired, with all the Cabbage Patch Kids World Travelers and Sectaurs commercials.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:30 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


One of my early bonding moments with my [now] wife was when we realized we both grew up in Betamax households. It was the shared pain of the ever-shrinking selection at the local video store that truly brought us together in a way no others could ever comprehend.

Betamax was a better format. This point I will never concede. Ever. Philistines.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 5:37 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


When they first came out, I thought minidiscs were the future.


Fucking iPods
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:39 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I thought a pro betacam deck could play betamax tapes? A pro betacam deck was incredibly functional, finding an exact spot with the controls was fast and accurate. Build like a tank and with a good camera incredible image.
posted by sammyo at 5:40 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh great, what am I going to do for porn now?
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:41 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a fondness for Betamax because my father picked up one with a bunch of movies at a yard sale around 1993. It's how I saw a bunch of classic sci-fi movies.

Okay 2001 was the only real classic, but I loved Explorers, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:42 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It makes me think of the Cowboy Bebop episode where Spike and Jet go on an adventure to find an old VCR to play an old tape that happens to be childhood footage of Faye.

Me too, because the tape in question was a Betamax.
posted by nat at 5:43 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh great, what am I going to do for porn now?

Well...
posted by Sangermaine at 5:44 PM on November 10, 2015


I worked in TV in the 70s/80s and betacam was indeed the standard. The quality was vastly superior to VHS. It even matched the older 1" tape recorders we used to have to lug around. All of the big networks and affiliates used beta.

I seem to recall issues with tape length being a big issue in Beta vs VHS discussions. Weren't Beta blanks only like 20/30m originally? And of course, pr0n was pretty much only available on VHS...big factor there when it was decision time on which machine/format to purchase.
posted by CrowGoat at 5:45 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


My guess is that the major consumers of this stock were those Betamax recording studio devices, and pro video joints, not home users. The former hold onto their gear for decades compared to the rest of us.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:51 PM on November 10, 2015


Just remembered - my Betamax machine had a "remote", which plugged into a jack on the front panel and consisted of a single button: PAUSE.
posted by davebush at 5:54 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


anonymisc, Betacam is still be used somewhere in the world for professional production and editing, but Betamax is done.

Beta cam SP, Digital Betacam, HDCAM, and HDCAM SR tape are still going strong. I bet Sony's factories even do runs of IMX and Betacam SX tape every now and then.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:55 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


thankfully not betamaxx
posted by rebent at 6:00 PM on November 10, 2015


I'm certainly among the clueless millions who had no idea Betamax was still a thing.
Reminds me a bit of the Dave Barry year-in-review line "Canada elects a new prime minister, fueling speculation that people actually live up there."
posted by uosuaq at 6:02 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sweet. Having bought a whole bunch of blanks in the early 2000s when I got a Betamax for nostalgia purposes, my investment shall soon pay off.

Once again, the conservative, Betamax-heavy portfolio pays off for the tape-hungry investor!
posted by panama joe at 6:06 PM on November 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm going to have to find a new format for my Videodrome collection.

I am the word made tape.
posted by panama joe at 6:09 PM on November 10, 2015


It's no laserdisc.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:11 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


We were a beta max household. There was a video rental store in our semi-hick small town that made the decision to be beta max only. Sunset video, I kid you not.
posted by maxwelton at 6:17 PM on November 10, 2015


We were also a Betamax household, and somewhere in my parents' attic are all the ST:TOS episodes I taped as a kid. We were--and I still am--convinced that Beta was the better format, but the longer recording time on VHS won out. Not the first time or last time that Americans would decide that, at the same price, they'd rather have more of an inferior experience than somewhat less of a superior experience.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I thought a pro betacam deck could play betamax tapes?

Yes but no. I think it's like putting leaded fuel in a Lexus. I think that there is an anecdote about a local TV executive who bought a cheap skid of discounted betamax tapes and told the news department that they had to use them for production. Hilarity ensues.
posted by ovvl at 7:11 PM on November 10, 2015


I thought they stopped making Betamax at least 20 years ago.
posted by mermayd at 7:14 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Al Bundy is inconsolable.
posted by jonmc at 7:17 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


U-MATIC FR LYFE!
posted by droplet at 7:20 PM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Vaya con dios, Betamax Bandit.
posted by winna at 7:28 PM on November 10, 2015


I just saw a pack of Mini Discs today, all unused. If anyone wants me to pick them up for you tomorrow, just MeMail me!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:33 PM on November 10, 2015


infinitewindow: "Beta cam SP, Digital Betacam, HDCAM, and HDCAM SR tape are still going strong. I bet Sony's factories even do runs of IMX and Betacam SX tape every now and then."

Also worth noting that these formats basically dominate their industry. "Betamax" wasn't necessarily that popular in pro circles, but [mostly] unlike VHS, the format continued to evolve (and even Sony's current disc and solid-state-based storage formats can clearly trace their lineage back through Beta).

Oh, and a broadcast-grade tape deck? That'll run you about $30k. Plus maintenance.
posted by schmod at 7:39 PM on November 10, 2015


I worked on some tee vee commercials several years back. We had to make the HD version and the center-cut non-HD version. I ended up with a copy of the HD spots on a couple 3/4 inch HD tapes which I was told cost "a couple hundred dollars per cassette"

Just threw them in the trash last weekend.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:48 PM on November 10, 2015


I watched 4 Betacam tapes this afternoon. In television it is still a very important format, especially if you work with archival footage a lot.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:56 PM on November 10, 2015


sobarel: " (with my brother's He-Man tape still in it, much to his chagrin)"

Ah, but to your brother's chagrin or the thief's?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:00 PM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a little confused what they're actually stopping production of, because regular Betacam (non-SP) was basically the same as consumer Betamax. Same size, same ferric oxide tape... different recording method, different speed, but physically they were the same.

So if they're not producing Betamax anymore, then they're also not producing Betacam? I guess I can believe that. But I'd expect Beta SP to keep going for a while longer yet.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:13 PM on November 10, 2015


I found a real actual floppy disk in a supply room at work today!
posted by miyabo at 8:27 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


By real you mean you found a 5 1/4" disk? Because 3 1/2" disks were not strictly speaking floppy.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:36 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Mighty Boosh - The Priest and The Beast, featuring the Betamax Bandit. The full episode, I might add.
posted by ashbury at 9:02 PM on November 10, 2015


Sure they were! The disk inside was floppy.
posted by equalpants at 9:03 PM on November 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


The one I found was floppy inside but hard outside (TWSS). I hung it on my wall like a trophy.
posted by miyabo at 9:15 PM on November 10, 2015


So, it turns out that paper tape, and it's mylar upgrade outlasted Betamax? This stuff is still in use in industrial environments, like the gear factory I work at.
posted by MikeWarot at 9:32 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, MikeWarot! Just the other weekend I did a quick fruitless search for rolls & tape to suit a couple of Series 1 Siemens M100's I've had sitting around for years.

(No, I'm not kidding…)
posted by Pinback at 9:50 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gonna pour out all my betamax tapes for the fallen.
posted by qcubed at 10:09 PM on November 10, 2015


Beta-HiFi had 80+ dB of dynamic range. I helped my friend Jeff haul one of those things around Summer Tour in the late 80's along with a marine battery and inverter.

Good times, man... Good times...
posted by mikelieman at 10:24 PM on November 10, 2015


Wait, they still make Betamax tapes? Who knew?
posted by SisterHavana at 10:49 PM on November 10, 2015


TheWhiteSkull: "When they first came out, I thought minidiscs were the future."

Minidisc would have been a lot more successful if Sony hadn't shot themselves in the foot with DRM. Sony has had so many run away hits where DRM didn't get in the way you'd figure they would stop trying it and crippling their product.
posted by Mitheral at 10:51 PM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Minidisc has its own emoji! 💽
But sadly there's only a VHS emoji. 📼
posted by zsazsa at 10:59 PM on November 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Minidisc would have been a lot more successful if Sony hadn't shot themselves in the foot with DRM.

Yeah, Serial Copy Management Sucked, but I think what really did them in is that they were solving a lot of issues that cassettes really didn't have -- given the context of their use -- and the significant investment required for a minidisc recorder and blanks in the first place.

And it turns out the industry freakout about being able to clone cds was unfounded.

Whatever. We now record direct to SD cards, then plug them into the laptop to upload to a server that can stream. Living in the future has some benefits, and it beats UPS-ing masters from the hotel to friends whose decks I'm patching in...

Oh, and Field Recorder on Android does everything including the mind-blowing concept of 'pre-roll'
posted by mikelieman at 11:49 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Do Notte Buye Betamacks"
posted by Fenriss at 1:09 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Minidisc was in a good place to also out do Zip disks, if anyone had thought to try.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:11 AM on November 11, 2015


Betamax household as well. When it hadn't been used in a long time and was ready for the trash, I took it apart with tools and pried loose enough bits to make a bracelet.
posted by megafauna at 1:38 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I found a real actual floppy disk in a supply room at work today!

I am currently sitting about 30m away from a closet containing several boxes of brand-new 8'' floppies. In case we decide to start using the PDP-11 again for some reason.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:06 AM on November 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


In case we decide to start using the PDP-11 again for some reason.

Depending on the model, if you get chilly and want to warm up the room, for one..
posted by mikelieman at 2:48 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]




Betamax household. What I remember is: Betamax was superior in most ways, but VHS was slightly cheaper. The market spoke.
posted by jabah at 6:51 AM on November 11, 2015


This is one of those, I thought he was dead already, things.
posted by Splunge at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2015


About the "Betamax factory": in my old hometown is a 3M tape factory that employs something like half the town. If 3M still makes Beta, they probably made it there. But they won't be hurting by all this: I called it a "tape factory" in general because the plant is pretty general: adhesive tape, magnetic tape, turns out the machines are basically the same. All that changes is the chemical formulation being coated on the backing. I'd have to ask one of my relatives for details but there's a ton of overlap in the processes and setup. Same with different formats: it all gets made in very wide sheets anyway, then the cutter slices the sheets into ribbons of whatever width and spools them onto spools of whatever design. Cassette tapes, VHS, Beta, something obscure nobody outside the Retroencabulator industry has heard of; all just different widths and different spools.

So the factory will hardly notice.

P.S. I just learned "Retroencabulator" wasn't in my spellchecker. This has been rectified.
posted by traveler_ at 8:27 AM on November 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


TIL that VHS tapes are still in production;

Maybe, but you might have a hard time buying any. A few years I had to go to three big-box stores before I found them. I can only imagine it's gotten more difficult. The kid at Best Buy (where I started my quest) looked at me like I was speaking Pashto.. Finally, after I described video tape cassettes in general more fully, he slowly said, "I don't think we carry anything like that, sir," in equal parts confusion and anxiety, as if I were a madman.
posted by aught at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


>>TIL that VHS tapes are still in production;
>Maybe, but you might have a hard time buying any.

Not hard at all.

http://www.amazon.com/Maxell-STD-T-120-Pack-VHS-Tapes/dp/B00000J1EQ
posted by mrbill at 2:59 PM on November 11, 2015


An Ebay search shows you can still buy a number of movies on Betamax format. From Star Wars [$29.99] to a two tape box set of Gone with the Wind [$9.99]. This is kind of nostalgia spooky. Who still watches Beta? [Of course I still have VHS but I really thought Beta died three decades ago].
posted by Rashomon at 4:31 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


In related news, my hipster dreams are dying rapidly. I was going to go around listening to Halo and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon soundtracks on tape using my Walkman this summer, but transferring them to tape was difficult because the tape recorder I had at hand was busted. CD dual-deck boombox worked, though I had to burn the soundtracks on CD first. But then, it turns out the Walkman is dying and none of the other portable cassette players were in any better condition. (Plus I remembered that those buggers eat a shovelful of batteries every day anyway.)
posted by wwwwolf at 6:29 AM on November 12, 2015


They were hard on the batteries that were available at the time. Modern NiMH batteries last longer and are rechargeable.
posted by Mitheral at 7:19 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


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