Betamax is dead: Sony finally kills off cassette format, decades after it fell out of use

Sony’s cassettes were said to be higher quality than rival VHS — but that didn’t save it

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 10 November 2015 19:44 GMT
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Sony Corp. President and CEO Kazuo Hirai delivers a keynote address in front of an image of a Sony Betamax at the 2014 International CES at The Venetian Las Vegas on January 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Sony Corp. President and CEO Kazuo Hirai delivers a keynote address in front of an image of a Sony Betamax at the 2014 International CES at The Venetian Las Vegas on January 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Sony is finally killing off Betamax tapes, long after people stopped using them.

Decades after they stopped being used, and more than 10 years after it stopped making a way to play them, the Betamax tapes will stop being made.

Sony said that it will stop producing the tapes in March 2016, marking the death of its last connection with the once hotly-tipped format.

The most famous part of Betamax’s history was its war with VHS in the late 70s, which it would eventually lose.

A year after Sony created its tapes, JVC launches a competitor in VHS. Betamax was widely considered to produce better quality recordings — but VHS recorders were cheaper and the tapes could store more and so caught on, quickly gaining momentum.

By the early 1980s, VHS accounted for a huge proportion of the market. That helped them gain momentum and later Betamax’s market share died off.

Sony would concede defeat a number of times: producing a VHS player in 1988, and then ceasing production of Betamax recorders in 2002. The latest move to stop producing the tapes is the last admission of defeat.

Similar format wars would play out later on. That included the battle between Blu Ray and HD DVD, which the former would go on to win, before being wiped out itself by a huge mass of competing streaming platforms.

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