VHS Player: Everything You Need to Know

VHS Player

VHS (short for Video Home System) is the standard for analog video recording at the tape level. It was announced in Japan on September 9, 1976, and in the United States on August 23, 1977, and it was developed by the Victor Company of Japan (JVC) in the early 1970.

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Since the 1950, VHS Player has become a significant contribution to the television industry, thanks to the first commercial VHS. At the time, expensive devices were only used in professional environments such as television studios and medical imaging (fluoroscopy).

In the 1970, videotape became a hotbed, creating a national video industry and changing the television and film industries’ economics. The television industry viewed VCR as a way to disrupt their business, while television users viewed VCR to take control of their viewing experience.

In the 1970 and 1980, there was a format war in the home video industry. Two standards, VHS and Betamax, received the most media coverage. VHS ultimately won the battle, dominating 60% of the North American market in 1980 and becoming the dominant home video format throughout the filming period.

Later, optical disc formats began to offer better quality than analog videocassettes, such as VHS Player and S-VHS. The first of these formats, Laser-disc, was not widely accepted in Europe, but was very popular in Japan and less successful in the United States.

However, after the introduction of the DVD format in 1996, the market share of VHS Player began to decline. By 2003 DVD rental overtook VHS Player in the United States, and by 2008 DVD had replaced VHS Player as the preferred mode of low-level distribution.

The last company in the world to manufacture a VHS Player (DVD Combo Video Recorder), the Japanese company Funai, ceased production in July 2016, citing reduced demand and difficulties purchasing parts.

VHS Player Development

In 1971, JVC engineers Shizuo Takano and Yuma Shiraishi teamed up to develop a consumer VHS Player and VCR.

At the end of 1971, they created an internal system called the “VHS Development Matrix,” which set twelve goals for the new JVC VHS Player:

  • The system must be compatible with any conventional television.
  • The picture quality should be similar to that of a standard aerial broadcast.
  • The tape must have a recording capacity of at least two hours.
  • Belts must be interchangeable between machines.
  • The whole system should be versatile, which means it can be customized and expanded, such as connecting a camcorder or copying between two recorders.
  • Loggers should be affordable, easy to use, and have low maintenance costs.
  • Recorders must be able to produce in large quantities, their parts must be replaceable and must be easy to maintain.

In 1972, the commercial video recording industry in Japan suffered a financial blow. The JVC cut the budget and restructured the video department, leaving the VHS Player project behind.

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However, despite a lack of funding, Takano and Shiraishi continued to work on the project in secret. In 1973, two engineers had developed a working prototype.

VHS Player Recording Capacity

The VHS Player tape has a maximum tape capacity of approximately 430m (1410ft) with the lowest acceptable tape thickness, which gives a full playtime of roughly four hours on the T-240 / DF480 for NTSC and five hours on the E-300 for PAL with “standard playback” (SP) quality.

However, VHS tapes are generally thicker than the minimum required to avoid complications such as jams or cracks in the video. Other speeds include “long play” (LP) and “extended play” (EP) or “super long play” (SLP) (standard on NTSC; rarely found on PAL machines). For NTSC, LP, and EP/SLP, it doubles and triples the recording time accordingly.

Still, these speed reductions result in a reduction in horizontal resolution, from the standard equivalent of 250 vertical scan lines in the SP to 1′ equal to 230 inches. LP, and even less on EP/SLP. Slower speeds also lead to a very noticeable reduction in linear sound quality.

Tape Lengths

VHS timeline for SP and LP NTSC and PAL/SECAM VHS tapes are physically identical. However, since the tape speeds differ between NTSC and PAL/SECAM, any video’s playing time will be different.

The manufacturers indicate the playing time in minutes expected in the market where the tape is sold.

It is possible to record and play a blank T-XXX video on a PAL device or an E-XXX tape on an NTSC device, but the resulting playback time will be different from that shown.

How do VHS Player work?

VHS is a video recording standard that has surpassed the competing “Betamax” standard. A VHS Player (or VCR) is a means by which television programs can be recorded on magnetic tape. During the 1980 and 1990, they were a way to record TV shows for later viewing. Most films are sold in this format.

The VHS cassette contains a rewind tape in a plastic case. The motor inside the VHS Player continuously winds the video from one winding to the other. At the same time, it hovers above its head to reproduce.

It reads the signals encoded on magnetic tape and translates them into audio and video signals sent to the television. Most VHS Player had an internal modulator, which converted AV signals to the same format as an analog TV channel.

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A similar reverse procedure was performed for registration. The internal VHS Player has decoded the incoming TV signal into audio and video. After erasing any material already on the tape, the electromagnetic signal was encoded on the tape as it passed through the machine. Most VHS Player can also record from external input and their tuner.

All but the oldest and cheapest VHS Player have supported countdown recording. So you can record the shows you’ve read when you’re not. Later versions used an internal computer to program the timestamps.

There was usually no imaginary control, other than “at 7:30 pm, recording channel 3 for 60 minutes”. However, you can set up multiple repeat shots to record numerous shows. Some had a memory that allowed you to set up reruns and reruns at the same time of day.

That way, you won’t miss an episode of Fresh Prince if you are sure there is a blank tape in the machine. As the analog television is turned off, VHS Player no longer work as before.

Your internal analog tuner cannot decode digital TV signals, so you can no longer configure it for self-recording. I can record from an external decoder, satellite device, etc., but this requires setting the external source to the correct channel and setting up the VHS Player for recording.

Fadehan Emmanuel
Moore is an Associate—Editor of TheXplorion. Got a NEWS TIP related to this story — or to anything else in the world of big tech? Please e-mail him: mooreplug[at]gmail.com. You can also connect with him via the connections below the box.