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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
R.I.P. Betamax videos
BETAMAX, a video format which earned a fanatical cult following but failed to win popular recognition, has died in its Tokyo home after a long, slow decline.

Having made a promising film debut in 1975, critics noted Betamax's technical virtuosity compared to other players on the home video stage - particularly the brash upstart VHS.

Stung by suggestions that Betamax offered audiences better sound and picture quality, VHS embarked on a tough regime of self-improvement. It also traded on its reputation for stamina - VHS tapes were larger and could play longer.

During the early 1980s, the rivalry between the pair flared into a bitter feud.

A couple watching TV
"So what's this Driller Killer all about, dearest?"
Though Betamax sold 2.3 million units in 1984, VHS was not to be beaten. It sold at three times that rate.

Though still admired by the technical cognoscenti, most popcorn-munching punters watched Rambo, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Porky's thanks to VHS.

Bloodied, but not bowed, Betamax stayed in showbusiness - largely thanks to the stubborn parental pride of Sony.

Betamax played to dwindling audiences, with Walt Disney stopping its distribution of Betamax tapes in the mid-1990s.

A crushing blow to its health, Betamax stopped travelling and retired to its homeland of Japan to await the inevitable.

While the results of an autopsy have been much debated, some have suggested that DVD contributed to the death.

Though a short and sad life of unfulfilled potential, Betamax's select band of mourners might care to reflect that even at the end, the format could put on a class act.

In recent years, Japanese connoisseurs were still willing to pay $2,000 for a Betamax.

No flowers.


Some of your tributes so far:

V2000 was better still. Excuse me I have to collect my anorak from the dry cleaners.
Andy

Poor old Betamax, we'll all miss his quirky ways ... but now he's in a Beta place.
Mike, UK

I'm deeply saddened. I may have to spend the rest of the day listening to uplifting tunes on my 8-track.
Michael, Belfast, Northern Ireland

I still swear by my 'What the Butler Saw' machine. I've played the same film every night for 50 years with no loss in quality (the picture that is)
Col Randall Marks (Retired), Great Britain

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Roll of honour
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28 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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