Format wars

January 16, 2008 | 1 Comment

As the big studios and their behemoth partners in Hollywood battle it out to see who triumphs between Blu-ray and HD DVD it’s worth remembering some of the brutal consequences of the BETAMAX v VHS war of the 70s.

HuggyI dimly remember a film hire shop in Portsmouth that actually had two entrances: one marked BETAMAX and the other marked VHS. Some older readers may remember the dillemma of trying to decide which video recorder to buy. Some may have bought a loved one a BETAMAX film as a gift only to find they had a VHS player … the opportunities for distress wrere just amazing.

Think yourself lucky you’re not Hugo Chavez.  The ‘Hug’ narrowly missed overthrowing the Venezuelan government in 1992 because he, er, had the wrong type of cassette:

Major Hugo Chavez, the head of the paratroop battalion that launched the attack on the president in Caracas, later surrendered.  . . . . .

Palace sources said that the president was just about to go to bed at La Casona, the presidential residence, when he received a call from General Ochoa warning him that a military plot to overthrow him had been discovered. Senor Perez was immediately rushed to the safety of the Miraflores presidential palace, from where he escaped through a tunnel linking the building to a nearby government complex when the rebel forces stormed the palace.

The president went on to a television station from where he addressed the nation denouncing the abortive coup. Employees of the state-owned Channel 8 television said that rebel soldiers forced their way into the station and ordered them to broadcast a video cassette with a message from the rebel leaders. They failed because their cassette was VHS and the station uses only the Beta type.

Source: The Times, 5/2/92



1 Comment so far

  1. Stephen Sharkey on January 18, 2008 10:19 pm

    If you like Format wars, you´ll enjoy “AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War” by Tom McNicol. No, it´s not about the Aussie Chart toppers, it´s about the war between Edison´s obsession with DC and Westinghouse´s (backed by the brilliance of Tesla) resolution that AC was the better choice. The main reason was AC´s abilty to run over far greater distances without intermediate Transfomers. As history now show´s Westinghouse won, but only after a bitter battle of 19th century Spin doctoring, Dirty Tricks and Marketing. Ironcially the US kept Edisson´s voltage of 110v, as at the time that was the optimal voltage for getting the most life from a filament with a decent illumination.

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