Throwback Thursday: Do you remember the Betamax?

Posted by Tina On June 11, 2014

Digital aficianado and Domain Group Product Director, Damon Pezaro, will be taking on our digital past with a regular Throwback Thursday column – kicking things off today with a flashback to the Betamax… 


Given the rate of change we have all lived through in recent times, it is often surprising (and comical) to see how dated some of our old favourite technology products have become. We thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and visit something from the technology vault from years gone by.

To kick things off, I thought we would revisit an old video recording technology, namely the Betamax, or Beta, videocassette.


This little gem was the only way to record, or tape as it was commonly referred to, your favourite TV shows. You were lucky to be able to record for an hour in the early days of this technology and I vividly remember having to “switch over tapes” to record anything of length such as the Royal wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Di back in 1981.

Yes, for those of you raised in the digital age, this is what we did before cable television, Netflix, YouTube and the like. It was a lesson in patience to use these cassettes. You’d have to rewind it each time before recording over the tape.

This technology sparked the rise of video libraries, which as we all know, are now DVD stores, which are almost a rarity themselves already. The video libraries would fine you if you happened to return a cassette without rewinding it. That’s how painful a process it was.

The technology gave rise to one of the great corporate battles of 80’s between Betamax and VHS, often referred to as the “format wars”. It is a well-documented story and a battle that ultimately VHS won, with arguably the key differentiation being the ability to record up to 4 hours on a VHS tape.

In today’s age of video and music streaming services and always-on type services, it’s important to remember the foundations that were paved all those years ago that have enabled the technology we enjoy today.

In a technology sense, we truly are standing on the shoulders of giants.