The People History Home

VCR / Video Recorders Examples and the history

The Changes to Video Recorders and VCR Technology over the last 50 years

The novelty of videocassette recorders has come and gone. When they first arrived on the market, they were one of the more exciting inventions in decades. They allowed consumers to record their favorite TV shows for whatever reason. People were excited that they could watch one show and record a different one at the same time. Their popularity lasted for a few decades but it has begun to wane in recent years due to new technologies.

First prototype VCR

The first prototype for the videocassette recorder was created in 1956 by the Ampex Company. The large device that Ampex created was new on the market and hardly used by anybody. The price tag - $50,000 – made it practically unattainable by the average consumer. TV networks were the main buyers of these products.

Sony created the first reel-to-reel recorder

The Sony Company took the idea that Ampex created and began to expand on the technology. In 1963, Sony created the first reel-to-reel recorder. This was innovative and the technology helped to make the machines less expensive for consumers, but they were still out of reach for the majority of households. As a result, these machines were generally used by businesses, medical officials, airlines and the education industry.

First Mass marketed videocassette recorder

Individuals would not have access to a mass marketed videocassette recorder for two more years. Then in 1965, Sony took their previous reel-to-reel technology and created the CV-2000. This model was a less expensive videocassette recorder that was made specifically for the average consumer to buy for household use. Other companies followed suit and these early VCRs soon had a price tag of approximately $1000. Though still expensive for the time period, the competition and technology was beginning to bring the prices down. Sony’s version had an edge over others, too. It was capable of recording family events for viewing later. This was a popular feature that many consumers were willing to purchase despite the high price.

In the following years, Sony continued to work on their technology and eventually created the Sony U-Matic in 1970. This was the first commercially-marketed videocassette format designed for consumers to use. It was capable of recording 90 minutes worth of footage. Two new machines were created that used this type of videocassette, but they were generally too expensive for average consumers.

Philips patented and released the first household VCR that most resembles the ones that we recognize today. They also created the square cassettes that are widely used today. The tape on the reels was capable of holding 60 minutes of footage. This was one of the only drawbacks that consumers did not enjoy about the videocassettes.

Betamax format / VHS format

In 1975, the digital timer became standard on VCRs and the tape durations were getting longer and longer. The products began to be mass produced and marketed to average consumers. This meant that the price was getting more affordable as well. The Japanese and European electronics companies were competing for more of a share in the market so they were creating better products for cheaper prices. By the 1980s, there were three major competing standards that used a variety of videocassettes. The race was on for more customers.

One of the major competitors in the race was the Betamax format. Created in 1975, Betamax almost overtook the VHS format that people began to use throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Videophiles still consider the Betamax format to be superior to the VHS format in picture quality and in technical standards. Unfortunately for this format, the VHS soon edged them out and they became obsolete soon after.

The VHS format began in the USA in 1975. JVC created the two-hour recording capabilities and the competing companies began battling it out for customers. Going back and forth between RCA and Sony, the tape durations soon reached the six hours that is common for videocassettes today. The VHS format also gained wider licensing capabilities which helped it edge it its Betamax competitors. They also had automatic recording capabilities as well as other features that consumers enjoyed.

Today, VCRs are almost a thing of the past. While most household still have a VCR, it is difficult to find VHS movie rentals at your local video store. The technology has been replaced by the DVD technology. You can even record onto DVDs now rather than just watching them. As a result, VCRs are becoming an antiquated piece of technology that many people continue to hold onto only until they transfer their old tapes onto a DVD.