*slaps console* This ... is the Sony Betamax!
July 9, 2019 4:37 PM   Subscribe

 
Oh boy... We were firmly in the "Beta" camp - my dad bought a complete Sony SL-F1/HCV-F1/AC-F1 kit in the 80's, so he could record hang-gliding video. Oh, and a I think it was a Sony Trinitron-KV-6000BE (15cm !!!) for portable viewing.

(heh - and yes, all of that 'kit' was virtually indestructible - even with grubby kids fingers)

We ended up watching more rented movies than any flight recordings... (No fancy image stabilization maybe for very shaky-cam productions...)

Of course, the rental selection wasn't the best in the hinterlands of north-western Alberta (and far worse for Beta viewers) - so, the main standby's I remember were; Cocoon, Chariots of Fire, The Right Stuff, The Dark Crystal and Annie - maybe Superman. Thankfully a year later we got "Superchannel" and wow, movies galore... That tiny TV was hooked-up in the parents bedroom, lots of sneaking in there when they were out/at work/after school and watching completely age-inappropriate movies.
posted by jkaczor at 5:08 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


A guy don't walk on the lot unless he wants to buy a Sony Betamax
posted by thelonius at 5:40 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


"Now, let's talk rustproofing. Those Sonys will rust up on you just like *that*!"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:41 PM on July 9 [11 favorites]


Apparently that Betamax console cost around $2,295 in late 1970's dollars, which google says is around $9,600 in 2019 dollars. Ow! (According to Wired, the first VHS cost $1,280 in then-dollars, but that was just the VCR part, no TV included.)

I'm trying to picture ever buying an almost $10,000 piece of consumer electronics, and I just can't get there.

The one dude's hair is amazing, they don't make hair like that anymore.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:12 PM on July 9 [6 favorites]


*slaps console* This...

"This bad boy can fit the maximum betas in it!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:27 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


That Trucoat, though.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:31 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I find the prices of gadgets back then kinda interesting, especially for computers. They are very expensive. But the savings rate was around 9 percent in 1980. Less consumer debt too. Things like healthcare, college, and food are considerably cheaper. And the gadgets themselves were usually well built and would last years without either breaking down or becoming obsolete. Thus, many middle class people could actually afford things (at least occasionally) which would seem almost unimaginably expensive now.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 6:42 PM on July 9 [15 favorites]


I've written and deleted a couple of comments on this dialogue, but it really stands on its own if you have the right frame of reference for it:

"Why don't you, uh, go ahead?"

"Alllll right. You, uh, want me to be an easy close, or hard sell?"

"Actually, I want you to be a...salesman."

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:55 PM on July 9 [7 favorites]


Yes. By far the most enjoyable part for me is the atmosphere of and interaction between the two dudes which mostly occurs in a few very brief moments outside the content of the actual roleplayed sales demo. I kinda wanna have a beer with these two.
posted by glonous keming at 7:05 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


See this system here? This is Hi-Fi . . . high fidelity. What that means is that it's the highest quality fidelity.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 7:15 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Hashing out who would play which role felt like something from one of Beckett's later works. Or maybe early Pinter.

It's funny the examples they show are sporting events. One of the primary reasons Beta lost out to VHS in the format war was that VHS had two to three hour recording capacity while Beta could only record for 60 minutes initially. Why would they highlight this fact while using 3+ hour programs to illustrate?
posted by theory at 7:36 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


This clip was missing silhouettes of wisecracking robots in the lower right corner.
posted by biogeo at 8:00 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to picture ever buying an almost $10,000 piece of consumer electronics, and I just can't get there.

By 1979 or 1980, VCRs were quite common among US military families stationed in Germany, since the only American (or even NTSC) tv available was AFN/AFRTS, which was spotty in pretty much exactly the way you'd think a single channel trying to be all things to all people and run by the morale-boosting folks would be.

ISTR things like electronics were available at a pretty steep discount at the BX/PX relative to normal retail, though.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:11 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


To be clear, those were just vcrs, not that combo dingus, probably $6-800 in then money.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:19 PM on July 9


“Look at these low, low prices on famous brand-name electronics!” – Homer Simpson
“Don’t be a sap, Dad. These are just crappy knock-offs.” – Bart Simpson
Pfft. I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see it. And look, there’s Magnetbox and Sorny.” – Homer Simpson
posted by jkaczor at 5:39 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


We had the first Betamax in the neighborhood, a model SL-8200 with the timer/clock option. Watching this demo video, listening to the clunks and clacks of the keys and the cassette tray, really brings me back to that time, sitting in the basement watching movies recorded off the TV (the local ABC affiliate had a "4 O'clock Movie" every day, and I religiously taped them when it was Monster Week or Sci-Fi Week).

Apparently, that model was $1100 with the timer (just over $4700 today). Between that, the Atari home computer and disk drives ($2200 in 1979, about $7800 today) and the Odyssey2 game system ($179 in 1978, $700 today), my dad convinced my mom to spend a CRAPTON on gadgets when I was a lad.
posted by hanov3r at 8:29 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Wonderful! I love these time capsules. Now that I am older and can see the historical context of what I lived through I think it's pretty cool.

My favorite product demo reel is the outtake reel that editors crafted for a Winnebago trade video. A friend who was an editor showed me an old VHS dub that she had. I apologize if this is redundant or off topic.

I love RV Man.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:48 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


There was a documentary made about the Winnebago Man.
posted by thelonius at 9:57 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


And the gadgets themselves were usually well built and would last years without either breaking down or becoming obsolete. Thus, many middle class people could actually afford things (at least occasionally) which would seem almost unimaginably expensive now.

There was also a thriving used market for electronics. I'm not sure if my family fit into middle class except near the bottom, but even we eventually had a VCR. Actually, I think we had a computer even before we had a VCR.

Most of the electronics my family had when growing up were second hand. Our first computer was the infamous Franklin Ace 1000, a clone of the Apple IIe and we bought it used. It cost 1500. And only had a 9" or 11" green screen monitor, but it came with a bunch of stuff, like two printers (one daisy wheel, one 9 pin dot matrix, both Okidata), a decent joystick, a koalapad (drawing tablet), two floppy drives, the 80 column display and memory expansion and a crapton of (mostly bootleg) software on disks.

New that whole setup might have been like 4-5k, especially if you actually paid for all the software.

I also remember friends getting the Macintosh when it first came out and that was going for, what, $8995 list brand new? Just for the Mac?

My grandpa had the original IBM PC XT right when it came out with all the bells and whistles and a color monitor and the total list price for that was probably similar.

Those prices sound RIDICULOUS today, even before inflating them to 2019 dollars. Today I could set up a competent home office for under $1000 with a basic laptop, a large high def LCD, a scanner printer combo and even an affordable phone and internet connection.

And something to consider is that early electronics like this weren't as competitive today. It was a seller's market and they charged as much as the market would bear, because of course people would pay really high prices for what was still effectively magic in a box.

I remember seeing prices for discrete parts in catalogs when I was a kid, and per-unit prices on major components like early CPUs were actually relatively low. I have heard many stories about how just doing the industrial design and getting custom enclosures made or molded cost more than the electronics inside it.

I bet if we looked at the price breakdowns and markups on a lot of our favorite 80s era tech we'd find much higher profit margins for companies back then. The markups on, say, a Walkman were probably pretty high.
posted by loquacious at 10:24 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]




because of course people would pay really high prices for what was still effectively magic in a box.

My impression was that there was a market of rich dudes who felt that it was essential to have the latest, newest gadgets, and the cost be damned. The high prices were part of the appeal for this kind of (possibly imaginary) person, not an obstacle, because paying insane costs proved how much status they had.
posted by thelonius at 10:38 AM on July 10


Luxury. We had a Philips.
Philips had insane first mover advantage, launching their VCR format in 1972 and I would gawp at these 1500 type machine at the houses of my Dad's most famous friends in mid 70s England, back when the idea of having a video tape machine at home was an impossible luxury. This format didn't make the transition to a USA version well, and was pretty primitive, but at the time was science fiction.

By the time my family could scrape together the money for a VCR in 1978, Philips were on to the 1700 long play format, which was still a massive machine by modern standards with clunky mechanical transport buttons that must have had an inch of travel. There was no remote control. The first show I remember recording for myself was the punk TV show Revolver. This format launched around the same time as VHS and Beta and had no chance at competing with the smaller cheaper Japanese formats, although it worked OK for us.

Even my dad wasn't convinced by the launch of Philips third attempt at a format, Video 2000. Although it was the only video system where you could flip the cassette over and record on the other side, it launched too long after Beta and VHS and somehow managed to come third in a two horse race.

Then my Dad upgraded from the obsolete Philips format. To Betamax. (facepalm)
posted by w0mbat at 10:40 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I also remember friends getting the Macintosh when it first came out and that was going for, what, $8995 list brand new? Just for the Mac?

Nowhere near that. List for the original Mac was just under $2500 at debut in January 1984, a little under $6200 in today's dollars. That price dropped to $2k when the Mac512 (aka "Fat Mac") was released in September of the same year at a price of $2800 (abour $6900 today).
posted by hanov3r at 12:30 PM on July 10


If you're into vintage video history, or optical discs, have a look at this virtual museum. (The weird graphic is a navigation menu...try it out. It'll lead to an interesting read, I promise)
http://www.totalrewind.org/mainhall.htm
posted by tellUwut at 6:01 PM on July 10


Nowhere near that. List for the original Mac was just under $2500 at debut in January 1984, a little under $6200 in today's dollars.

Oh, you're totally right and I'm conflating my memories with the Apple Lisa, which was $9,995.

Which is weird because like most people I've never even seen a Lisa, much less knew someone who owned one or bought one. Because holy crap you could buy a mid-range to affordable luxury sedan for 10k back then. Econoboxes were still going for 2-3k.

I did know people with SGI or NeXT boxes and it was the desktop computer equivalent of knowing someone who had a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Oooo, shiny.
posted by loquacious at 8:47 PM on July 10


Beta lost out to VHS in the format war was that VHS had two to three hour recording capacity while Beta could only record for 60 minutes initially

I thought beta lost because of porn.
posted by james33 at 3:56 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


« Older Three more California futures   |   This is Pleasure Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.