Today you can convert your VHS to DVD using a service like ours. Being able to watch our home movies or any film we like is taken for granted. Before 1970 you had cine film but not many people owned a cine projector let alone a cine camera to record cine films. Many families with parents born before 1950 will remember going to the cinema was the only way to see any recorded material. News reels from Pathe films would start, showing the latest war updates or news from around the world. Then with the invention of television more people would have access to motion picture.
The invention nobody was asking for
In the 1970’s Sony developed a new technology called Betamax. People were not asking for it but Sony came up with it anyway. It was instantly popular but because it was so expensive people did not take it up in their millions. It was only when rival JVC invented a different medium called VHS that take up was in the millions. More affordable the big studios started releasing their content on VHS. A similar technology in that the material was magnetic tape, the VHS began to dominate in the 1980’s. Betamax continued among early technology enthusiasts with its better image quality, however society would be transformed by the VHS.
Sony debated over the pornography issue, but ultimately decided against allowing dirty movies to be recorded onto Betamax. By the end of the 1970s, erotic films accounted for over half of all videotape sales in England, which meant people wanted to get their hands on VCRs even when they cost the average person several months wage.
VHS won over Betamax due to the greater volume of XXX movies.
So what was the big deal about watching movies from home? Cinemas were hugely popular in the 1980’s and the new wealth people had from the impact of globalisation and computer technology making us highly productive meant it was more affordable than ever. What could you possibly want to watch at home rather than on a big screen with surround sound and the shared experience with hundreds of other people? Pornography. The adult film industry exploded in the 1980’s as people were excited by watching XXX movies in private. Following this the film studios started releasing their movies on VHS which caused the rise of Blockbuster and movie rentals. Friday night is movie night but home movie night became the regular event. Hundreds of movies that might not be released in your local cinema became available. Mail-order catalogs became a hit with tens of thousands of movies on every subject you can think of available to watch.
Camcorders soon followed as people with VHS machines realised they could make their own movies. Initially bulky and back breaking it was common to rent a camera and record your own tapes. They were the size of VHS tapes so you can imagine the size and cost of such a big camera. Then followed VHS-C (VHS-compact) tapes which were a phenomenal success. In the late 1980’s millions of VHS-C tapes were sold to every class of family who wanted to do more than take pictures of their family. Memories could now be stored on tape and played back. Families and friends divided by continents could record their families growing up in Australia and send a copy back to their relatives in England. Cine film was dead. The lack of sound on 95% of cine films and the cumbersome equipment needed to project the image into a darkened room was replaced by small VCR machines under the TV with simple affordable VHS tapes.
So the next time you record your children opening presents with your mobile, watch them back on the same device, and then press a button to share them with all your family and friends, just remember how we got here with the aesthetically dull but inimitably entertaining VHS tapes.
Now show your respect to those black boxes and go find your VHS tapes and have them transferred to DVD (or USB or cloud) before you forget about them again.