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  #1  
Old 25 January 2007, 04:01 AM
MicahCochran
 
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Default VHS and Betamax

Betamax vs. VHS: Betamax lost because they didn't license porn (or did so too late)

I've heard this one pop up as a cultural reference around the Slashdot crowd and the This Week in Tech podcast crowd. The idea goes something like this the VCR format wars of VHS & Betamax were won because VHS licensed adult content and Betamax wouldn't. This lead to VHS becoming the dominant formation and eventually winning the format war. I've only heard the reference in those two techie groups. I've been hearing it more and more since the HD-DVD and Blu-ray format wars.

This urban legend was sufficiently torn appart in a posting during the last summer... http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/u...0;t=002692;p=1

One thing is both the Wikipedia articles for VHS and Betamax simply do not address this myth. Quick summary of summer postings, Marketing failures were the biggest problem. Betamax was a higher quality product, which commanded a higher price. Consumers buying a new technology would buying based on lower price, VHS. Eventually, that caused the VHS selection to have a bigger consumer base which would make it more feasible to sell to only the VHS market.

But this lead me to look for the source of the misinformation...

One of the earliest references on the newsgroups is from 1996 and it has a good debunking...
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.c...d45d086f96a8ea


Next I did a Google seach for 'betamax porn or "adult film"'. The following journal article is (was?) the top result for that and it sure could be the original Internet source of the misconception/myth.

--- Article ---
Author: Peter Johnson
Journal: Federal Communications Law Journal
Volume 49
No. 1
Title: Pornography Drives Technology: Why Not to Censor the Internet
Date: November 1996
Article URL: http://www.law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs...1/johnson.html

From journal article by Johnson (1996) [emphasis added]:
Quote:
What were people watching on these early videotapes? The early home video rental stores, the outlets that drove Betamax from the market, were almost exclusively pornographic, drawing on the same clientele as early nickelodeons.(42) The same was true of home video sales.(43) It was not until the mid-1980s that first, local videorental stores, and next, national chains like Blockbuster entered the field with videos for the mass*market. By then, porn had shown the way. Thus, the victory of VHS over Betamax, and the triumph of video rental and purchase over time-shifting, is a rare example of pornography specifically adopting a product and a method of retailing that drove its competitor from the market.

I have not looked at the source of the citations "Janet Wasko, Hollywood in the Information Age(1994)," to see if that is the source of the myth. (It isn't in my local libraries.)

What do you think about this?
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  #2  
Old 25 January 2007, 05:26 PM
Wizywyg
 
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I was of the belief that Betamax lost out because it couldn't record as long as VHS did. JVC (which brought out VHS in 1976) pushed hard even going to war against SONY (creators of Betamax) and eventually won because of the purported 6 hours you could get of recording time on on tape. At the time Betamax could only support up to 4 hours. And also, because of Sony's strict licensing to the format, companies were willing to deal with VHS' less strict licensing, to release their product and of course Blank tapes became much cheaper than the Beta counterpart.

However, Betamax was a far superior format (better resolution).

Quote:
In fact, the root causes of VHS' victory are somewhat more complex. Betamax held an early lead in the format war, offering some technical advantages. By 1980, VHS was gaining marketshare due to its longer tape time (3 hours maximum, compared to just 60 minutes for Betamax in USA) and JVC's less strict licensing program. The longer tape time is sometimes cited as the defining factor in the format war, allowing consumers to record entire programs unattended (recording time between VHS and Betamax were similar in areas where VHS entered the market several years after introduction, such as the UK in 1978.) Sony ultimately conceded the fight in the late 1980s, bringing out a line of VHS VCRs of its own.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VHS

However, not all is lost with Beta, as its still a format very much used today (that is if you're into film/tv production)


Nothing about Porn, but it could be that "consumers" helped by buying so many blank tapes to ..... well.... you know the rest... ^_^
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  #3  
Old 25 January 2007, 05:49 PM
Griffin2020
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wizywyg View Post
However, not all is lost with Beta, as its still a format very much used today (that is if you're into film/tv production)
With the advent and adoption of digital editing and storage technologies, Sony has actually (within the last 6 months) retired its last BetaMax deck. While it is still in use in many broadcast setups and production houses (we have a Beta camera and deck in our video studio), it is now in its dying days.

Last edited by Griffin2020; 25 January 2007 at 05:50 PM. Reason: Because I do not support odoption.
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  #4  
Old 25 January 2007, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffin2020 View Post
With the advent and adoption of digital editing and storage technologies, Sony has actually (within the last 6 months) retired its last BetaMax deck. While it is still in use in many broadcast setups and production houses (we have a Beta camera and deck in our video studio), it is now in its dying days.
I wasn't aware that Betamax was used in professional settings. Most broadcasters in the 80s used 3/4" U-Matic (with the accompanying 39,234,989,284 lb. camera/deck setup ), and then moved to Betacam soon after. Nowadays, I think that Digibeta and DVCAM/HDCAM (Betacam's digital descendants) are very widely used.

Betacam and Betamax are related (in fact, early Betacam tapes could be used on Betamax decks, and vice-versa), but they're quite different. I don't think that Betamax could produce broadcast-quality recordings. It was better than VHS, but not that much better, and it didn't have things like an embedded timecode.

ETA: According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Sony made its last Betamax deck in 2002.
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  #5  
Old 25 January 2007, 08:37 PM
Tyrone Slothrop
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Furious View Post
I wasn't aware that Betamax was used in professional settings. Most broadcasters in the 80s used 3/4" U-Matic (with the accompanying 39,234,989,284 lb. camera/deck setup ), and then moved to Betacam soon after. Nowadays, I think that Digibeta and DVCAM/HDCAM (Betacam's digital descendants) are very widely used.

Betacam and Betamax are related (in fact, early Betacam tapes could be used on Betamax decks, and vice-versa), but they're quite different. I don't think that Betamax could produce broadcast-quality recordings. It was better than VHS, but not that much better, and it didn't have things like an embedded timecode.

ETA: According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Sony made its last Betamax deck in 2002.
I can confirm that broadcasting facilities are indeed still using Digibetas and Beta Decks in broadcast. I worked for a television production company for several years and we backed everything up to a digibeta and stored it in a vault. However, the content that is eventually broadcasted is in a digital format. The show is taped via digibeta, encoded as an MPEG2, and broadcasted as a stream through a consumer outlet such as Comcast, Time Warner, and Cox.

The movies or shows are also stored electronically on a SAN as an MPEG2 and distributed via FTP to these consumer outlets where they are muxed and broadcasted. We had emergency backup tapes read to be played to avoid dead air in the event the SAN went down.

Those shows you view on cable (or digital cable/satellite, via the stream) originated from a Digibeta tape demuxed in house and muxed via the distributor.
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  #6  
Old 25 January 2007, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop View Post
I can confirm that broadcasting facilities are indeed still using Digibetas and Beta Decks in broadcast.
Yeah, I knew that, but I was expressing surprise that any professional facility would use Betamax. Or were you just confirming what I said? I should go back to bed.
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  #7  
Old 25 January 2007, 08:45 PM
Tyrone Slothrop
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Furious View Post
Yeah, I knew that, but I was expressing surprise that any professional facility would use Betamax. Or were you just confirming what I said? I should go back to bed.
Well...hrmm..confirming what you said? We had digibeta decks, not Betamax decks. Or maybe I was confused. That tends to happen a lot.
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  #8  
Old 26 January 2007, 12:37 AM
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I had heard that it was somewhat analagous to the Apple/PC thing: VHS would let others license and use the format, but Beta was kept for Sony only and the competition made VHS more affordable - just as PC's were more affordable than the more tightly controlled and therefore higher quality but more expensive Apple. What has kept Apple around has been a niche market, (mostly graphics) which Beta didn't have.

That's what I heard from the guys in the electronics stores, anyway.
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  #9  
Old 26 January 2007, 06:09 PM
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I heard that movie studios were nervous about the quality of BetaMax, namely that it was so good that they were more concerned about piracy of videos in the BetaMax format than in the lower-quality VHS. This really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, since the formats aren't that far apart. There was no doubt a great deal of lobbying to the studios on behalf of the competing formats, but I seriously doubt that having less quality would be a selling point.
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  #10  
Old 26 January 2007, 07:07 PM
matches
 
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Just to toss in my two cents, I had always heard the reason Betamax lost out was due to the fact that Sony refused to let other companies make betamax machines or tapes.

Where as VHS machines & tapes were allowed to be manufactured by anyone. This led to the lower price for VHS tape and machines.

Lower priced machiens ment that more people could afford VHS machines, so they became more widely distributed.

Lower cost tape ment that cost concious producers could distribute more of their product for less money by using VHS tape.

That cheap porn producers could increase their profits by exclusivly using VHS is more probable a cause for the derth of Betamax Porn (that's a cool name for a rock band) than a rightous Sony Electronics refusing to license their products to pornographers.

I would think Sony has very limited input into what their products are used for. I would think they sell their tape stock (and electronics) to whole sale distributors who in turn sell these products to various clients. As such I couldn't imagine Sony making a no porn rule, or if they did, I can't imagine a why for them to enforce it.
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  #11  
Old 26 January 2007, 08:45 PM
Lunasa
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snapdragonfly View Post
I had heard that it was somewhat analagous to the Apple/PC thing: VHS would let others license and use the format, but Beta was kept for Sony only and the competition made VHS more affordable - just as PC's were more affordable than the more tightly controlled and therefore higher quality but more expensive Apple. What has kept Apple around has been a niche market, (mostly graphics) which Beta didn't have.

That's what I heard from the guys in the electronics stores, anyway.
For what it's worth, this is what I was always lead to believe too.
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  #12  
Old 26 January 2007, 10:12 PM
Nappy Solo Nappy Solo is offline
 
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This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I bought Beta to begin with, and constantly had to defend my choice. But when my friends saw the picture and effects with my mighty Sony SLHF900 , they shut up in a hurry. I still have this machine and it works well. In the process of transferring over some old home video to DVD. At the time, it was described by "Video" magazine as the most sophisticacted consumer VCR ever produced (at the time), and will have to stay in my collection when it's just another Oriental space oddity.

I had read quite a bit about who was to blame for Beta's demise, and a lot of the blame fell on Sony. I remember an article in the above mentioned magazine as saying something like "if Sony had created VHS, and JVC Beta, VHS would have failed". They said early advertising by Sony touted the technical niceties of the Beta system, while VHS mentioned how many soap operas you could cram onto one tape. As Sony tried to catch up in recording time, VHS expanded theirs as well. When Sony came up with Super Beta, and its many more lines of resolution, VHS came up with something similar. The article pointed out that once things got to the point of 60/40 advantage of VHS, the downfall of Beta was on the way. Video stores didn't want to carry both, and since people wanted the same format as their friends had, the more popular format was going to squash the other one in time. No amount of technological advances was going to put Sony back in the race. It wasn't long before you either had a VHS, or one of those "other" ones.

At the time, Sony had different standards for licensing Beta, and was a little pickier, IIRC. But, they were not alone. Sanyo also had Beta, as did Aiwa - which is a branch of Sony, and I'm fairly sure that Toshiba was the other one. These brands were far out numbered by the VHS camp.

Sorry I don't have any cites for any of this, but doing it from my memory of the subject. I'm sure I was just as boring as some of the Mac users are today, but we both know a superior product when we see one. Just the facts!

Last edited by Nappy Solo; 26 January 2007 at 10:24 PM. Reason: bad spellin
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  #13  
Old 26 January 2007, 10:47 PM
matches
 
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Neener, Neener It's not the first time

You know a similar story follows the creation of disk records, as opposed to cylinders.

Edison refused to switch to disks, because they had inferior sound quality, so RCA Victor snatched up the market making cheap easy to produce disks that could be churned out by the hundreds, while Edisons cylanders were still largly hand crafted affairs. By the time edison perfected disks to a point where he was satisfied with the sound quality RCA had the market and edison was on the outs. You may have something made by RCA in your home today, when was the last time you saw an electronic with the name Edison on it?

There is some talk now about the Blueray, and the HDVD formats, as to who will come out on top. What history has taught us is that the public will trade minor imperfection for cheapness and abundance.

Based on that notion, people might just stick with the cheap, easy to use, and prolific redlaser DVD's that are currently on the market, since the advantages to the much more expensive formats will probably go unnoticed by the vast majority of purchasers.

The next big thing will probably be hard disks for media (such as the Ipod or the TiVo) or possibly flash drives that are small and easy to store and blueray and HDVD will be the 8-tracks of the 21st century.
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  #14  
Old 26 January 2007, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elwood View Post
I heard that movie studios were nervous about the quality of BetaMax, namely that it was so good that they were more concerned about piracy of videos in the BetaMax format than in the lower-quality VHS. This really doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, since the formats aren't that far apart. There was no doubt a great deal of lobbying to the studios on behalf of the competing formats, but I seriously doubt that having less quality would be a selling point.

It's not, but cheap is. A lot of people who were "serious" audiophiles scorned the VHS because Beta really did have a better quality, but, they lost out.

(that whole beta/vhs thing happened in the last few years of my first marriage, and my husband was a consumer electronics salesman, so I got to hear about all this stuff daily. Of course he could have been totally full of sheet, too. Heh.)
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  #15  
Old 26 January 2007, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matches View Post
Just to toss in my two cents, I had always heard the reason Betamax lost out was due to the fact that Sony refused to let other companies make betamax machines or tapes.

Where as VHS machines & tapes were allowed to be manufactured by anyone. This led to the lower price for VHS tape and machines.

Lower priced machiens ment that more people could afford VHS machines, so they became more widely distributed.

Lower cost tape ment that cost concious producers could distribute more of their product for less money by using VHS tape.

That cheap porn producers could increase their profits by exclusivly using VHS is more probable a cause for the derth of Betamax Porn (that's a cool name for a rock band) than a rightous Sony Electronics refusing to license their products to pornographers.

I would think Sony has very limited input into what their products are used for. I would think they sell their tape stock (and electronics) to whole sale distributors who in turn sell these products to various clients. As such I couldn't imagine Sony making a no porn rule, or if they did, I can't imagine a why for them to enforce it.

Yes. That is what I was trying to say.
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  #16  
Old 27 January 2007, 06:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matches View Post
You know a similar story follows the creation of disk records, as opposed to cylinders.
And also for US color TV. CBS has a system that was technically superior to RCA's NTSC, but RCA won due to compatibility issues.

I think you can also argue the Apple vs. PC battle went the same way.

The key lessons to all of these is that technical superiority is meaningless if your competititor's version is good enough for general use.
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  #17  
Old 28 January 2007, 09:26 AM
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This subject was touched on in this thread a while ago, when I had found a couple of articles saying that the current adult film industry is heavily biased towards HD-DVD rather than BluRay.

While the case of VHS vs. Beta may not have been decided on the same grounds, I do think that it could be a factor here -- or, more generally, the fact that Sony keeps much tighter restirctions on licensing for BluRay may lead to its falling behind.

I do recall, back in 1979, taking a Radio/Televison course in which the instructor confidently predicted VHS would win over Beta simply on the recording time issue. Of course, the same instructor also predicted full frontal nudity on daytime soap operas within five years. You can't win 'em all....
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  #18  
Old 28 January 2007, 09:10 PM
Rehcsif
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matches View Post
You may have something made by RCA in your home today, when was the last time you saw an electronic with the name Edison on it?.
Perhaps because Edison didn't use his own name, he used his company's name: The Edison General Electric Company. I'd venture lots of people have something made by GE in their home, and if they don't, they probably watch programming on NBC, which is owned by the company founded by Edison...

-Tim
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  #19  
Old 28 January 2007, 09:32 PM
Jayhawkk
 
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Back when I was a kid watching TV late at night a GE commercial would come on with the jingle "We bring good things to life" would scare the mes out of me
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  #20  
Old 29 January 2007, 07:25 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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A related issue: In the war between HDDVD and BlueRay, I've heard that Sony will not license their format for certain uses, such as porn. My source is not that reliable, so is there anyone who has any info on this? This could become like a re-run of the Beta vs VHS-war.

Quote:
You may have something made by RCA in your home today, when was the last time you saw an electronic with the name Edison on it?.
Last week, as I was crawling around for three hours in my house with a blowtorch as only light (my, up til now, perfectly faithful MagLite died on me) trying to figure out what was blowing my fuses. The fuse standard in Sweden (and probably in other places as well) is called Diazed. The "dia" part comes from it being cylindrical (diameter), I don't remember what the "Z" comes from (probably "Zcrew you, Tesla!" ), but the "ed" part comes from Edison.
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