QWERTY's Revenge: The Lonesome Death of the VHS system


Variety (somewhat comedically) eulogizes the VHS home entertainment system, whose death in the market is now pretty much complete. An excerpt:

Although it had been ailing, the format's death became official in this, the video biz's all-important fourth quarter. Retailers decided to pull the plug, saying there was no longer shelf space.

As a tribute to the late, great VHS, Toys 'R' Us will continue to carry a few titles like "Barney," and some dollar video chains will still handle cassettes for those who cannot deal with the death of the format.

Born Vertical Helical Scan to parent JVC of Japan, the tape had a difficult childhood as it was forced to compete with Sony's Betamax format.

After its youthful Betamax battles, the longer-playing VHS tapes eventually became the format of choice for millions of consumers……

The format flourished until DVDs launched in 1997. After a fruitful career, VHS tapes started to retire from center stage in 2003 when DVDs became more popular for the first time.

Since their retirement, VHS tapes have made occasional appearances in children's entertainment and as a format for collectors seeking titles not released on DVD. VHS continued to make as much as $300 million a year until this year, when studios stopped manufacturing the tapes.

Will there be revanchist fanatics, as with vinyl v. CD, who continue to plump for their beloved old format's unique charm and qualities? I'd like to think no, but almost certainly yes.

A classic Reason feature from 1996 by Stan Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis on some of the myths of "path dependence" that used to haunt the VHS system's (short-lived, as it almost always goes) market dominance.

[Link via USA Today's Pop Candy blog.]