Sony has made a stunning announcement. Beginning in 2016, it will no longer make Betamax cassettes for video cassette recorders (VCR) and cameras.
Stunning, because who knew Sony was still making the cassettes in the first place?
After all, VCRs were pretty much a thing of the past by 1999. Long before that, the Betamax VCR was consigned to the dustbin of technology history. But it wasn't always so.
Sony was the first to come out with the Betamax format in 1975. It wasn't until later that RCA introduced its own version of the video cassette format, VHS. For years, the two formats duked it out.
When you walked into video store to rent a movie – does anyone remember doing that? – on one wall were the Beta copies of movies, on the other was VHS. Slowly but surely, VHS overtook Beta in sales and popularity.
It wasn't because VHS was better – most technophiles argue Beta was the superior format. But Sony never licensed its patent to other manufacturers. If you wanted a Betamax, you had to buy a Sony.
RCA, on the other hand, licensed its VHS format to any manufacturer. So there ended up being a lot more VHS machines in consumers' living rooms than Betamaxes.
Eventually, video store operators got tired of purchasing both formats of movies and went solely with VHS.
According to Sony, the tapes have still been available in Japan, for collectors and die-hard video purists. But the last shipment will roll of the assembly line in March 2016 and an era most thought ended long ago will finally be over.