Porn Beat Off Loser On Tape

Really. In the video tape wars VHS won against Sony's Beta format. Why? Because porn movie viewers wanted to see something longer.

Videotape first emerged as a cheap and efficient alternative to film for TV production. Sony hit the street first with Betamax for home use, but home tape recorders matured with VHS format thanks to porn.



Predicting that the greatest use of home VCRs would be time-shifting, that is, recording TV shows off the air for later viewing, Sony designed Betamax tape with a one hour playing time. When the market for videotape proved not to be time shifting, but prerecorded movies, longer-playing tape was required, and VHS arose to meet the need. Though Beta eventually spurted to a four hour format, it was too late. Within years, two-, four-, and six-hour VHS tape became the industry standard.

What were people watching on these early videotapes? The early home video rental stores, the outlets that drove Betamax from the market, were almost exclusively pornographic. The same was true of home video sales. It was not until the mid-1980s that first, local video rental stores, and ebventually national chains like Blockbuster entered the field with videos for the mass market. But, porn had shown the way.

The victory of VHS over Betamax, and the triumph of video rental and purchase over time-shifting, is just one example of pornography specifically adopting a product and a method of retailing that drove its competitor from the market.

Throughout the history of new media, from vernacular speech to movable type, to photography, to paperback books, to videotape, to cable and pay-TV, to "900" phone lines, to the Internet, to CD-ROMs, pornography, surprisingly, has shown technology the way. And it's going to happen again. The porn industry likes HD DVD, so Blue-Ray will—in spite of Sony's big muscle—peter out.

TH

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