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VHS (Video Home System)

Contributor(s): Vern Piantanida

VHS (Video Home System) is a widely-adopted videocassette recording ( VCR ) technology that was developed by Japan Victor Company (JVC) and put on the market in 1976. It uses magnetic tape 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) in width. Originally, the abbreviation VHS stood for Vertical Helical Scan, and was later changed as the technology gained in popularity.

VHS is used by home consumers, and also to a limited extent in television (TV) production. Some professional production studios prefer Betamax , a less common VCR technology for which equipment is no longer manufactured, because some engineers believe that Betamax offers better image quality than VHS. The Betamax tape takes a more direct path through the recording and playback apparatus, so the recording and playback operations are faster and more convenient. However, less wear occurs on a VHS tape as compared with Betamax, so VHS cassettes tend to last longer. Also, VHS cassettes have more capacity (in terms of recording time) than Betamax cassettes.

There are several variants of the VHS technology. The original standard provides image resolution comparable with that of conventional analog TV. The most advanced version, called digital VHS ( D-VHS ), allows for the recording and reproduction of digital high-definition television ( HDTV ) programming. Some VHS cassettes can also record computer data for archiving purposes.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the VHS and Betamax formats became competitive, and ultimately, for complex legal reasons, VHS captured the home video recording and reproduction market. By 1993, Betamax was essentially obsolete among consumers in the United States. In recent years, the use of cassette tapes for video recording and reproduction has become less common because of the widespread availability and popularity of DVD technology.

This was last updated in March 2011

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