If you’re old enough you probably remember the Betamax guy. During the great age of VHS tape (roughly from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s), he was the guy in the neighborhood that stuck with Sony’s Betamax format until the bitter end – always insisting that it was the better video tape format.
He never lost his love for Betamax, even though few movies were released on the format after the early years of the Betamax-VHS war.
It was a short war, and Betamax lost decisively.
As the U.S. Census Bureau reminds us, it was way back in June of 1975 that Sony’s Betamax format recorder was introduced.
Many felt that Betamax was technically superior to rival format VHS, but VHS gained dominance in the market by being the first cassette to offer extended recording times.
The major consumer electronics companies supported the VHS format. VHS-compatible VCRs sold in the millions, while Betamax machines gathered dust on store shelves.
So profound was Betamax’s loss that the whole Betamax/VHS phenomenon has become a metaphor for the “better technology” losing out in the marketplace.
To this day, you can hear business people of various stripes saying, “We don’t want to be the next Betamax” when discussing the prospect of rolling out a new product. The idea that you can be better but still lose strikes fear into the hearts of product planners, entrepreneurs and marketers the world over.
Eventually, though, even VHS lost its market.
At its peak, some 9 out of 10 households across the country had a VCR. Then, the DVD was introduced in 1997, and quickly eclipsed videocassettes. Now, the rising format is the Blu-ray system.
For many of us, the way to consumer entertainment is through streaming services such as Netflix.
But somewhere out there in the country, the Betamax guy soldiers on. There are fewer of these stalwarts in the land, but those who remain will never tire of telling visitors that “Betamax was better”.