Below is a timeline for all notable events pertaining to videocassette technology (not including distribution, with the exception of firsts and lasts). It should be noted that this website uses the term, “Home Video,” in two different ways. Firstly, it uses it as an umbrella term for the viewing of movies in the home, physical or otherwise. Secondly, its also the label given to the era in time where movies are being released on physical video formats.
Sony presents the very first videocassette prototype. Initially called “Videocassette,” it would later be given the name, U-matic due to the path the 3/4″ tape takes inside the machine.
At the 2nd annual International Music Industry Conference held in Spain, Philips presents their entry into the videocassette race, calling it the machine, VCR (Videocassette Recording). This abbreviation would stick for all subsequent home video recorders.
June 28th, 1970 (Variety, 1970/05/27, p. 27)
Frank Stanton (of Cartridge Television Inc, a subsidiary of Avco) demonstrates his Cartrivision system at the Consumer Electronics Show. This system uses cartridges of video tape to playback prerecorded media.
Launch of the first videocassette player. Originally intended for the consumer market, but are mainly used commercially because of its high cost. Because this first version did not have recording capabilities, it’s technically not a VCR.
The Avco Cartrivision system is launched. Unlike previous video machines, this one is built directly into a television console, resulting in the hefty price tag of $1,895. This is the first system to legitimately offer studio films and adult content on videotape to the public.
Due to a variety of reasons, including high cost, faulty equipment, poor marketing and disintegrating cartridges, Cartrivision didn’t meet sales projections. As a result, Avco discontinues the system and Cartridge Television Inc’s assets are liquidated.
Sanyo introduces their own videocassette system, the Sanyo VTC-7100 (later referred to as V-Cord I). It’s an early 1/2″ black and white videocassette system which uses the inferior skipfield process. Designed as a portable machine with a camera.
December, 1974 (Fast Forward, Lardner)
Sony presents the Betamax system before the heads of Matsushita and JVC hoping they would adopt the format. The meeting doesn’t go well, as Sony left no room for negotiation. Insulted, the other companies continued with the development of their own videocassette systems.
May 10th, 1975
Sony launches their new Betamax system in Japan, available in two distinct versions. The LV-1801, which is a television console unit, and the SL-6300, a standalone deck. The cassettes themselves are far smaller than anything else on the market, and at this time, only capable of recording a single hour.
Matsushita introduces their VX format and VCR in Japan. The system uses 1/2″ tape on two reels stack on top of each other inside a cassette. Launched in the U.S. two years later.
Sony introduces the LV-1901 (the same model as the LV-1801 in Japan) to the U.S. market with the pricetag of $2500. Its a TV / VCR combination unit. Like the Japanese model, the unit is only capable of recording 60 minutes per videocassette.
April, 1976 (Fast Forward, Lardner)
In a last ditch effort to sway Matsushita to adopt Betamax, Sony reveals in a meeting that they’ve finally made a 2-hour cassette. In response during that same meeting, JVC (a subsidiary of Matsushita) unveils their VHS (Video Home System) format for the first time, which could also record 2 hours. This ignites the format war.
September 9th, 1976
JVC launches their first VHS VCR in Japan with a cost of approximately $1060.
Utilizing Matsushita’s VX format, Quasar (the American subsidiary of Matsushita) releases the Great Time Machine (model VR-1000) to the American market. The device immediately fails and no subsequent models are released in the U.S.
Zenith, America’s biggest TV manufacturer, agrees to market and produce Betamax machines in the U.S.. This is a major move by Sony to capture the American market.
Sony introduces Beta-II, a new two-hour videocassette that can record an entire movie on a single videocassette. These new cassettes require the latest Betamax VCR to record the full two hours, the SL-8200.
3M reveals their latest creation, Metafine IV, a magnetic tape that not only allows for longer recording durations, but at an affordable price. The new tape makes videocassettes even more competitive against the upcoming videodisc formats.
The very first VHS VCR hits the American market in the form of the RCA Selectavision VBT-200.
Engineer Thorsten Cooke develops a copy-protection process for the adult distributor, Quality X. MPAA shows an interest.
The Video 2000 format is launched by Philips and Grundig to compete with the VHS and Beta formats. It’s only ever distributed in Europe, South Africa and Argentina. Prerecorded movies are made available. Discontinued in 1989.