Japanese company Funai will stop making VHS devices this month, marking the end of the road for the venerable video tape standard.
But the company has told The Register that low demand is not the reason for VHS' demise, despite being cited widely based on a brief Japanese language report. Funai told us it sold 750,000 VHS machines last year, most under the Sanyo brand and most into North America. That's decent demand. But not sufficient to nourish the supply chain: in an email to El Reg Funai told us that difficulty obtaining parts is the reason it has decided to stop making VHS machines.
The company has also pointed out that it doesn't sell standalone VHS machines. Instead, its current offerings are the DV220FX4 VHS/DVD player combo, with recording available on the VHS if you can find a source of video to pipe in to the tuner-less machine. That machine is billed as a way to “Enjoy All Your Favourite Movies”.
The ZV427FX4's tag line is: “Save Your Precious Memories”, a promise it fulfils by allowing you to copy content from VHS to DVD.
VHS's demise isn't surprising, because its picture quality was always dubious and the format has long been surpassed by digital formats. The problem VHS solved has also been addressed.
That problem was how to store analog video. One solution was to have really long tapes moving very quickly. Which was impractical because nobody wanted really long tapes, which were too bulky and fragile. The alternative was to make the read/write head spin so that instead of pulling lots of tape over head, you read a smaller tape more often. That technique, called “helical scanning”, powered VHS and its rival beta but required a complicated tape path and lots of mechanical messing about.
If your correspondent recalls history correctly, long-dead American storage company Exabyte tried to adapt helical scanning for backup applications and failed: the technology just wasn't resilient enough for heavy use.
These days we're able to make tapes with denser media and better-defined tracks, removing the need for spinning heads. The result is technologies like LTO generation 7, the 15TB-per-cartridge archival monsters that feature tapes with multiple data bands and drives with eight or 16 heads to work on each. ®