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VHS facts for kids

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JVC-VHS Cassette001
Full-size VHS tapes (left) and compact VHS-C tapes (right)
Sharp VC-H982 VHS VCR
A typical VHS VCR

VHS means Video Home System. This system uses a videocassette tape to record video and sound, which can be watched on a television. A DVD/VHS combo can record (write) on VHS tapes, read off VHS tapes, and additionally, read from DVD discs. A few can also record on DVD. VHS was so popular that during the 1990s, the terms "videocassette", "videotape", or even just "video" usually referred to the VHS format.

VHS cassettes can be recorded using a video camera. They can also be recorded with a videocassette recorder, or VCR. A VCR can use a VHS cassette to record broadcast television.

This system was created in 1976 by the Victor Company of Japan (also called JVC). VHS was a very popular way for people to record and play video at home in the 1980s and 1990s, but now DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) and Blu-ray have become more popular as they can be easier to use, the quality is higher, they last longer, and the discs and players are cheaper to make. VHS VCRs, as well as blank tapes and pre-recorded VHS movies, are no longer made, except for a few independent films. Blank tapes are still widely available as new old stock.


Before VHS

Many companies developed different systems for recording video on a tape cassette, but the first VTR (short for Video Tape Recorder) to become popular and make money was the Ampex VRX-1000, which was introduced in 1956 by Ampex Corporation. It cost US$50,000 in 1956 (over $400,000 in 2016 money), and US$300 (over $2,000 in 2016 money) for a 90-minute reel of tape. Because it was so expensive, it was made and sold only for professional recording.

While Kenjiro Takayanagi, a television broadcasting pioneer, was the vice president of JVC, he decided that his company could make money by developing and selling VTRs in Japan, and at a lower price. In 1959, JVC developed a two-head video tape recorder, and by 1960 they had a color television version for professional broadcasting. In 1964, JVC released the DV220. It would be the company's standard VTR until the mid-1970s.

In 1969, JVC worked with Sony Corporation and Matsushita Electric (who owned Panasonic) to design a video recording technical standard for Japanese consumers. They developed the U-matic tape format in 1971, which was the first format to become a technical standard for VTRs. The U-matic format was successful in business and some video broadcasting. However, few people bought U-matic VTRs to use at home because they were still very expensive, and the tapes could only record short time periods of video.

Soon after, Sony and Matsushita stopped working on the project. They started to work on their own video recording formats. Sony started working on Betamax and Matsushita started working on VX. JVC released the CR-6060 in 1975, which was based on the U-matic format. Sony and Matsushita also produced their own U-matic machines.

VHS development

In 1971, JVC engineers named Yuma Shiraishi and Shizuo Takano started a team to develop a VTR for people to use at home. By the end of 1971, they created an diagram titled "VHS Development Matrix", which listed goals for JVC's new VTR.

  • The machine must work with any ordinary television set.
  • The picture on the television must resemble a normal television broadcast.
  • The tape must be able to record at least two hours of video.
  • The tapes must be able to record and play video on other machines of the same kind.
  • The whole system should be able to be expanded. For example, there should be ways to connect a video camera to the machine, and to record video from another recorder.
  • Recorders should be cheap, easy to use and cheap to fix.
  • The company must be able to produce large numbers of the machines, using interchangeable parts (in other words, different models and styles of machine have the same parts inside).

In 1972, video recording industry in Japan started to lose money. JVC had to find ways to spend less money, so it stopped developing the VHS project. However, Takano and Shiraishi continued to work on the project by themselves, even though the company was not giving them any money to use. By 1973, the two engineers had built a prototype.


  • VHS HQ (High Quality) adds 10 extra lines of horizontal resolution, and is playback-compatible on non-HQ equipment.
  • Linear stereo audio places two audio tracks in the space formerly used for the single mono audio track.
  • VHS HI-FI adds higher-quality (near CD quality) stereo sound to VHS. It is backward compatible with standard VHS. A VCR without HI-FI capability will simply play the tape in mono or linear stereo.
  • VHS-C is a smaller version of the VHS cassette. It was typically used in camcorders. The tape inside is the same as in a full-size VHS cassette. A VHS-C cassette can be played and recorded in a full-size VHS VCR with an adapter. Capacity is typically 30 minutes in SP mode. Tapes longer than 30 minutes exist but are rare.
  • Super VHS (S-VHS) is an improved version of VHS with a higher-quality picture. It is not backward-compatible with standard VHS. The picture quality is similar to Laserdisc or DVD. Playing an S-VHS tape on a standard VHS VCR will produce a heavily distorted picture. There is also a smaller version of S-VHS for camcorders, called S-VHS-C.
  • D-VHS (Data VHS or Digital VHS) is a digital variant that can record in high definition 720p or 1080i, and can also be used as a backup tape for general-purpose data. Video quality and data capacity are similar to Blu-ray.
  • W-VHS is an analog high-definition format. It records in 1035i.
  • Digital-S or D-9 is a digital VHS variant designed for broadcasting, news gathering, or other professional use. It uses the DV codec and has a different tape formulation than standard VHS cassettes.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: VHS para niños

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