Skip to main content

History of the VCR

History of the VCR
(Image credit: Getty)

VCRs are not something you'll find in many homes at all these days, but at their peak, VCRs had a huge impact on the way we enjoyed home entertainment. Here we find out when the first VCR was invented and how the home video came about. 

Video cassette recorders or VCRs are now pretty hard to come by, but if you still have some VHS tapes hanging around, check out the best VHS to DVD converters.

When was the VCR invented?

The first VCR player was both inefficient and expensive. The Ampex Corporation developed the VRX-1000 in 1956. This video recorder used a rotating head design to record video and audio on magnetic tape, and the $50,000 price tag made it an unrealistic investment for most. To further complicate matters, the rotating heads required a skilled operator and lasted only a few hundred hours.

Though the VRX-1000 was a short-lived invention, the need for such technology was instantly recognized. Despite the cost, which was equal to about $325,000 today, several television networks wanted to make the investment. With this recording technology, networks no longer had to repeat live broadcasts.

When did VCRs become more affordable?

Expensive video recorders found a home in broadcasting companies and some businesses, they had yet to conquer the home market. Individuals wanted the ability to record television broadcasts so they could watch them at their leisure.

In 1965, Sony created the CV-2000. This device used a reel-to-reel format and recorded in black and white only. This smaller and more affordable video recorder was the first example of such technology that worked for the average consumer.

When were VHS tapes invented?

The VHS system was an invention of JVC. The technology was first introduced in Japan in 1976, and the United States received its first VHS-based VCR system approximately a year later. Though there were several early competitors in this field, the war for dominance in the consumer market finally came down to Sony's Betamax technology versus JVC's VHS.

By this time, Sony's Betamax already had a jump on the market, as Betamax was unveiled to the public in 1965. The Sony SL-8200 for Betamax was soon facing off against JVC's Vidstar VCR for VHS cassettes, with both options entering the market in 1977. Though competition was stiff between the two incompatible formats, VHS ultimately won consumers over with its longer recording time and lower price tag.

Though the history of VHS is brief, this device changed the face of technology as we know it. It gave consumers the ability to record their own videos with simple devices in their own homes.

VHS tapes and VCR players are now out of date, it's possible to retain your favorite memories in DVD format. All that you enjoyed in the glory days of the VCR and VHS is not lost.