Betamax is a consumer-level analog-recording and cassette format of magnetic tape for video. It was developed by Sony and was released in Japan on May 10,1975, the first Betamax introduced in the United States was the LV-1901 console, which included a 19-inch color monitor, and appeared in stores in early November 1975. The cassettes contain 0. 50-inch-wide videotape in a similar to that of the earlier, professional 0. 75-inch-wide. Betamax is obsolete, having lost the videotape format war to VHS, production of Betamax recorders ceased in 2002, new Betamax cassettes were available until March 2016, when Sony stopped making and selling them. Like the rival videotape format VHS, Betamax has no guard band, the suffix -max, from the word maximum, was added to suggest greatness. In 1977, Sony issued the first long-play Betamax VCR, the SL-8200 and this VCR had two recording speeds, normal, and the newer half speed. This provided two hours recording on the L-500 Beta videocassette, the SL-8200 was to compete against the VHS VCRs, which allowed up to 4, and later 6 and 8, hours of recording on one cassette. Sanyo marketed a version as Betacord, which also was casually called Beta, in addition to Sony and Sanyo, Beta-format video recorders were manufactured and sold by Toshiba, Pioneer, Murphy, Aiwa, and NEC. The Zenith Electronics Corporation and WEGA Corporations contracted with Sony to produce VCRs for their product lines, the department stores Sears and Quelle sold Beta-format VCRs under their house brands, as did the RadioShack chain of electronic stores. Betamax and VHS competed in a format war, which saw VHS win in most markets. For the professional and broadcast video industry, Sony derived Betacam from Betamax, released in 1982, Betacam became the most widely used videotape format in ENG, replacing the.75 in wide U-matic tape format. But in the key area of recording, Betacam and Betamax are completely different. Sony also offered a range of industrial Betamax products, a Beta I-only format for industrial and institutional users and these were aimed at the same market as U-Matic equipment, but were cheaper and smaller. The arrival of Betacam reduced the demand for both industrial Beta and U-Matic equipment, Betamax also had a significant part to play in the music recording industry, when Sony introduced its PCM digital recording system as an encoding box/PCM adaptor that connected to a Betamax recorder. The Sony PCM-F1 adaptor was sold with a companion Betamax VCR SL-2000 as a digital audio recording system. Many recording engineers used this system in the 1980s and 1990s to make their first digital master recordings and this feature is discussed in more detail on Peep Search. Sony believed that the M-Load transports used by VHS machines made copying these trick modes impossible, betaSkipScan is now available on miniature M-load formats, but even Sony was unable to fully replicate this on VHS. BetaScan was originally called Videola until the company made the Moviola threatened legal action
Three Sony Betamax VCRs built for the American market. Top to bottom: SL-2000 portable with TT-2000 tuner/timer "Base Station" (1982); SL-HF 300 Betamax HiFi unit (1984); SL-HF 360 SuperBeta HiFi unit (1988).
A rare Japanese market Betamax TV/VCR combo, the Model SL-MV1.
The early-form Betacam tapes (left) are interchangeable with Betamax (right), though the recordings are not.