The first practical professional videotape
machines were the Quad machines introduced by Ampex in the United
States in 1956. Quad employed a helical scan system on a two-inch
(5 cm) tape. The BBC experimented with a high-speed linear videotape
system called VERA but this was ultimately unsuccessful, and all subsequent
videotape systems have used helical scan.
Although Quad became the industry standard
for 20 years, it had drawbacks such as an inability to freeze pictures,
and in early machines, a tape could only reliably be played back using
the same set of hand-made tape heads, which wore out very quickly.
Despite these problems, Quad could produce excellent images. Unfortunately,
very few early videotapes still exist. The high cost of early videotapes
meant that most broadcasters erased and reused them, and regarded
videotape as simply a better and more cost-effective means of time-delaying
broadcasts than the previous kinescope technology, which recorded
television pictures onto photographic film. However, some early broadcast
videotapes have survived, including The Edsel Show, broadcast live
in 1957, and 1958's An Evening With Fred Astaire, the oldest color
broadcast videotape known to exist.
The next format to gain widespread usage was
the 1" C-format videotape. It introduced features such as shuttling
and still framing.
The first video cassettes
Then, in 1969, Sony introduced the first widespread
video cassette (prior formats had used open reels), the 3/4"
composite U-matic system, which it later refined to Broadcast Video
U-matic or BVU. Sony continued its hold on the professional market
with its ever-expanding 1/2" component video Betacam family (introduced
in 1982), which, in its digital variants, is still among the market
leaders. Panasonic had some limited success with ist MII system, but
never could compare to Betacam in terms of market share.
The first domestic videocassette recorders
were launched in the early 1970s, but it was not until the Japanese
systems, Sony's Beta (1975) and JVC's VHS, were launched, that videotape
moved into the mass market, resulting in what came to be known as
the "format wars". VHS finally won, mainly due to its longer
recording time compared to Beta. VHS is still the leading consumer
VCR format, since its follow-ups S-VHS and D-VHS never caught up on