How Football Helped Kill Betamax

iStock
iStock

Every decade or so, consumers begin to get very frustrated with a mass media industry that can’t seem to settle on a specific format. Currently, people who own super high-resolution 4K televisions are wondering whether it will be HDR10 or Dolby Vision that will emerge as the leading picture quality standard. Prior to that, HD-DVDs were vying for shelf space with Blu-ray discs.

While these rivalries go all the way back to Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder for recording music (he lost out to the disc-based gramophone), only one became an outright punchline. In the 1970s, Sony’s Betamax videocassette format lost a highly contentious struggle to become the dominant home video format to JVC’s VHS standard.

One of the major reasons? American football.

In terms of quality, there was no comparison. When Betamax tapes and machines debuted in 1975, they offered vibrant colors and sharp renderings of pre-recorded and homemade cassettes. VHS, which debuted in 1977, was bulkier and flunked most head-to-head evaluations of the two formats.

But there was a compromise that consumers had to live with if they opted for Betamax’s sharper image: Tapes were only an hour in length, which meant that buying or recording movies required juggling two cassettes. VHS, on the other hand, offered two hours of recording space—plenty of time for many feature films.


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Sony was confident consumers would value picture quality above all else. And in today’s market, where televisions can reveal virtually every pore on a person’s face, that strategy makes sense. But early adopters were more concerned with how practical these new devices were, a fact that Sony didn’t appear to prioritize. When American hardware manufacturer RCA expressed interest in producing cassette recorders, they knew that U.S. consumers would want to record sporting events for delayed viewing. Because American football broadcasts can often exceed three hours, RCA told Sony they needed a cassette that could accommodate the games.

Sony was indifferent. They didn’t want to give up picture quality in exchange for length. But Matsushita, which partnered with JVC to make VCRs, saw the logic in it. RCA’s first machine, the VBT200, allowed users to slow the VHS tape down to create four hours of recording time. Football fans could time-shift games, recording them to watch whenever they liked.

That wasn’t the only reason VHS eventually superseded Betamax: Sony’s machines were expensive, whereas JVC was happy to let other manufacturers make units and engage in more competitive pricing. VHS tapes and machines were plentiful, and even though Sony eventually caught on and offered Betamax machines with longer recording options, the format soon retreated into a small sub-category of professional A/V technicians. Sony made their last Betamax unit in 2002 and the last tapes in 2015.

Target Has Launched a Harry Potter Line of Clothing, Accessories, and Home Goods

Target
Target

No more blending in with the mediocre Muggles—now wizards can decorate and accessorize like the magical creatures they are with Target's brand-new line of Harry Potter clothing and home goods.

Target shoppers will feel like they’ve stepped through Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station as they wander the Harry Potter-stuffed aisles. Popsugar reports that Target will carry more than 500 Harry Potter-themed items, including socks, lanterns, pillows, dolls and much more.

You’ll be able to wake up in your Hogwarts sheets, have your morning coffee in a Slytherin mug, and take a ride on a foam Nimbus 2000 replica while rocking a Potter t-shirt. Not sure what house you’re in? No sweat! Target is even carrying a real-life sorting hat.

Whether you need a gift for the kiddos, or just want to treat your inner witch, Target is sure to have the perfect find in its Wizarding World line.

House Boasting a ‘Harry Potter Room’ Under the Stairs Hits the Market in San Diego

Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Cupboard under the stairs featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Matt Robinson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Harry Potter fans dream of living like the boy wizard, they may picture Harry's cozy quarters in the Gryffindor dormitory at Hogwarts. One home owner in San Diego, California is trying to spin one of Harry's much less idyllic living situations as a magical feature. As The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, a listing of a three-bedroom house for sale in the city's Logan Heights neighborhood boasts a "Harry Potter room"—a.k.a storage room under the stairs.

In the Harry Potter books, the cupboard under the stairs of the Dursley residence served as Harry's bedroom before he enrolled in Hogwarts. Harry was eager to escape the cramped, dusty space, but thanks to the series' massive success, a similar feature in a real-world home may be a selling point for Harry Potter fans.

Kristin Rye, the seller of the San Diego house, told The Union-Tribune she would read Harry Potter books to her son, though she wouldn't describe herself as a super fan. As for why she characterized her closet as a “large ‘Harry Potter’ storage room underneath stairs" in her real estate listing, she said it was the most accurate description she could think of. “It’s just this closet under the stairs that goes back and is pretty much like a Harry Potter room. I don’t know how else to describe it," she told the newspaper.

Beyond the cupboard under the stairs, Rye's listing doesn't bear much resemblance to the cookie-cutter, suburban home of 4 Privet Drive. Nearly a century old, the San Diego house has the same cobwebs and a musty smells you might expect from the Hogwarts dungeons, the newspaper reports. But there are some perks, including a parking spot and backyard space for a garden or pull-up bar. The 1322-square-foot home is listed at $425,000—cheaper than the median price of $620,000 for a resale single-family home in the area.

If you want to live like a wizard, you don't necessarily need to start by moving under a staircase. In North Yorkshire, England, a cottage modeled after Hagrid's Hut is available to rent on a nightly basis.

[h/t The San Diego Union-Tribune]

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