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Full-size VHS tapes (left) and compact VHS-C tapes (right)

VHS means Video Home System. This system uses a videocassette tape to record video and sound, which can be watched on a television. A DVD/VHS combo can record(write) on VHS tapes, read off VHS tapes, and additionally, read from DVD discs. A few can also record on DVD. VHS was so popular that during the 1990s, the terms "video cassette", "video tape", or even just "video" usually referred to the VHS format.

VHS cassettes can be recorded using a video camera. They can also be recorded with a video cassette recorder, or VCR. A VCR can use a VHS cassette to record broadcast television.

This system was created in 1976 by the Victor Company of Japan (also called JVC). VHS was a very popular way for people to record and play video at home in the 1980s and 1990s, but now DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) and Blu-ray have become more popular as they can be easier to use, the quality is higher, they last longer, and the discs and players are cheaper to make. Pre-recorded VHS movies are no longer made, except for a few independent films, but blank VHS tapes and VHS VCRs are still made.

History[change | change source]

Before VHS[change | change source]

Many companies developed different systems for recording video on a tape cassette, but the first VTR (short for Video Tape Recorder) to become popular and make money was the Ampex VRX-1000, which was introduced in 1956 by Ampex Corporation.[1] It cost US$50,000 in 1956 (over $400,000 in 2016 money), and US$300 (over $2,000 in 2016 money) for a 90-minute reel of tape. Because it was so expensive, it was made and sold only for professional recording.

While Kenjiro Takayanagi, a television broadcasting pioneer, was the vice president of JVC, he decided that his company could make money by developing and selling VTRs in Japan, and at a lower price. In 1959, JVC developed a two-head video tape recorder, and by 1960 they had a color television version for professional broadcasting.[2] In 1964, JVC released the DV220. It would be the company's standard VTR until the mid-1970s.

In 1969, JVC worked with Sony Corporation and Matsushita Electric (who owned Panasonic) to design a video recording technical standard for Japanese consumers.[3] They developed the U-matic tape format in 1971, which was the first format to become a technical standard for VTRs. The U-matic format was successful in business and some video broadcasting. However, few people bought U-matic VTRs to use at home because they were still very expensive, and the tapes could only record short time periods of video.

Soon after, Sony and Matsushita stopped working on the project. They started to work on their own video recording formats. Sony started working on Betamax and Matsushita started working on VX. JVC released the CR-6060 in 1975, which was based on the U-matic format. Sony and Matsushita also produced their own U-matic machines.

VHS development[change | change source]

In 1971, JVC engineers named Yuma Shiraishi and Shizuo Takano started a team to develop a VTR for people to use at home.[4] By the end of 1971, they created an diagram titled "VHS Development Matrix", which listed twelve goals for JVC's new VTR.[5] The twelve goals were:

  • The machine must work with any ordinary television set.
  • The picture on the television must look as nice as a normal television broadcast.
  • The tape must be able to record at least two hours of video.
  • The tapes must be able to record and play video on other machines of the same kind.
  • The whole system should be able to be expanded. For example, there should be ways to connect a video camera to the machine, and to record video from another recorder.
  • Recorders should be cheap, easy to use and cheap to fix.
  • The company must be able to produce large numbers of the machines, the machines must use parts that are interchangeable (in other words, different models and styles of machine have the same parts inside), and they must be easy to fix.

In 1972, video recording industry in Japan started to lose money. JVC had to find ways to spend less money, so it stopped developing the VHS project. However, Takano and Shiraishi continued to work on the project by themselves, even though the company was not giving them any money to use. By 1973, the two engineers had built a prototype.[5]

Competition with Betamax[change | change source]

In the 1980s, VHS was involved in a format war with Sony's Betamax. VHS won the format war. Betacam, a variant of Betamax designed specifically for professional camcorders, did become popular in television studios, but consumers used VHS at home.

In 1974, the Japanese government's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) tried to force the Japanese video industry to agree on just one home video recording format, in order to avoid consumer confusion.[6] Later, Sony built a prototype of a Betamax VTR. Sony presented the prototype to MITI, and convinced them to use Betamax as the technical standard. Sony was then allowed to charge other companies licensing fees to use the Betamax technical standard, so that they could build and sell Betamax machines, too.[5]

JVC believed that an open standard (a technical standard that is open and free for anyone to use) like VHS was better for the consumer, so they fought against the MITI and Sony. JVC attempted to convince other companies, including Matsushita, to use VHS instead of Betamax.[7] Matsushita agreed with JVC because Matsushita worried that Sony might become the most powerful company in the video recording industry if the Betamax format was the only one that the MITI allowed them to sell. Matsushita also disliked the fact that Betamax systems could only record one hour of video.[7]

Because Matsushita agreed with JVC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Sharp[8] began to support the VHS technical standard, too.[5] When Sony released its Betamax machines in Japan in 1975, it pressured the MITI to support Sony even more. However, the combination of JVC and the other companies was much stronger, and eventually the MITI stopped trying to create a single technical standard for the whole industry. JVC released the first VHS machines in Japan in late 1976, and then in the United States in early 1977. Sony continued to sell Betamax machines, and they competed with VHS throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

In countries that use the NTSC technical standard for television broadcasting, the Beta I version of Betamax was able to record one hour of video at a tape speed of 1.5 inches per second (ips), which was similar to a VHS standard-play mode (SP).[9] Originally, VHS recorded two hours of video at 1.31 ips.[9] Betamax's smaller-sized cassettes were not able to contain as much magnetic tape as VHS cassettes. They could not compete fit longer lengths of tape into the cassettes to match VHS's two-hour recording time.[9] Instead, Sony had to slow the tape speed down to 0.787 ips (Beta II) in order to reach two hours of video recording in the same cassette size.[9] This meant that the television picture produced by a Betamax tape was worse than VHS when comparing two-hour recordings.[source?] Sony eventually released a longer Betamax cassette called Beta III which allowed NTSC Betamax to record more than two hours, but by then VHS had already won the format war.[9]

VHS also used a less complicated set of mechanisms to read the magnetic tape than Betamax, and VHS machines were faster at rewinding (winding the magnetic tape back to its starting place so that the video starts from the beginning the next time) and fast-forwarding than Betamax machines.[10]

In countries that use the PAL and SECAM technical standards for their television broadcasting, Betamax's recording time was similar to VHS and the picture on the television was at least as good as VHS.

Variants[change | change source]

  • Linear stereo audio places two audio tracks in the space formerly used for the single mono audio track.
  • VHS HI-FI adds higher-quality stereo sound to VHS. It is backward compatible with standard VHS. A VCR without HI-FI capability will simply play the tape in mono or linear stereo.
  • VHS-C is a smaller version of the VHS cassette. It was typically used in camcorders. The tape inside is the same as in a full-size VHS cassette. A VHS-C cassette can be played and recorded in a full-size VHS VCR with an adapter.
  • Super VHS (S-VHS) is an improved version of VHS with a higher-quality picture. It is not backward-compatible with standard VHS. The picture quality is similar to Laserdisc or DVD. Playing an S-VHS tape on a standard VHS VCR will produce a heavily distorted picture. There is also a smaller version of S-VHS for camcorders, called S-VHS-C.
  • D-VHS (Data VHS or Digital VHS) is a digital variant that can record in high definition 720p or 1080i, and can also be used as a backup tape for general-purpose data.

  1. "AMPEX VRX-1000 – The First Commercial Videotape Recorder in 1956". CED Magic. http://www.cedmagic.com/history/ampex-commercial-vtr-1956.html. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  2. The History of Television 1942-2000, pg 169. Albert Abramson. 2003. ISBN 9780786432431. http://books.google.com/books?id=TOMOmmrvwCcC. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  3. "VCR". Ce.org. http://www.ce.org/Press/CEA_Pubs/941.asp. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  4. Pollack, Andrew (1992-01-20). "Shizuo Takano, 68, an Engineer Who Developed VHS Recorders". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/20/world/shizuo-takano-68-an-engineer-who-developed-vhs-recorders.html. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "VHS STORY – Home Taping Comes of Age". Rickmaybury.com. 1976-09-07. http://www.rickmaybury.com/Altarcs/homent/he97/vhstoryhtm.htm. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  6. Bylund, Anders (2010-01-04). "The format wars: of lasers and (creative) destruction". Arstechnica.com. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/guides/2010/01/is-the-end-of-the-format-wars-upon-us.ars. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Howells. "The Management of Innovation and Technology: The Shaping of Technology and Institutions of the Market Economy" [hardcopy], pg 76-81
  8. Media College "The Betamax vs VHS Format War", by Dave Owen, published: 2005-05-01
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 100 Greatest Inventions, ppg 288-289. Citadel Press Books. 2003. ISBN 9780806524047. http://books.google.com/books?id=SPFiZ31mTnUC. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
  10. Parekh, Ranjan (2006-01-01). Principles of Multimedia. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 9780070588332. https://books.google.com/books?id=TaNmc2IdNVwC.