The Formats that Time Forgot: An Alternate History of TV and Film (Part One)

For almost every piece of game-changing technology that emerges in the TV and Film industry, something else is defeated and, eventually, forgotten by all but the most dedicated fans. After all, would we now be offering our essential Betamax to DVD transfer service if the Betamax had proved to be the long-enduring format that people imagined when it was first introduced?

We’re the first to admit that the technology which emerges victorious usually does so for a reason, whether that means offering a more streamlined and user-friendly experience, or simply offering better viewing quality. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes feel a little nostalgic for the formats that got left behind – so today, we’re going to champion the underdogs, and celebrate some of those technologies which you just don’t see any more.



Eventually, VHS would win this particular format war quite conclusively – and in the four years after its introduction in 1976 it was able to conquer around 70% of the market in North America alone. However, this didn’t stop Betamax from putting up a respectable fight, with many collectors still gathering up huge collections of the Sony developed tape before it began to become obsolete.

Although Betamax had compact size on its side, it ultimately lost out due to an inability to hold as much footage as the VHS and, correspondingly, its more expensive pricing.


After a relatively quiet period throughout the 80s, the format wars returned with a vengeance in 1995 when the DVD launched its affront against the VideoCD of 1993. Ubiquitous as the DVD now may be, the VCD is still on the market, with a cheaper cost ensuring that it doesn’t become entirely forgotten.

Despite this advantage, the lack of user-interaction capabilities found on the VCD have meant that consumers have not been quick to warm to them – unlike a DVD, there is no welcome menu before the film plays, and many VCDs which come with subtitles have no option for turning them off. Considering this disadvantage alongside the fact that VCDs typically have worse image quality and less protection for copyright and it becomes remarkable, and admirable, that it is still fighting its corner.



For a brief period between June 8th 1998 and June 16th 1999, DIVX was one of the stranger options to come up against the DVD. Based on a pay-per-view model, these disks were very similar to DVDs, with one bizarre catch: viewers had to call a phone line and make an additional purchase every time they wanted to watch the contents after an initial 48 hour period.

Although this may have actually resulted in it being a cheaper option for those who only had interest in watching their film once, consumers opted to replay and few mourned the loss of the DIVX.

Check back in for Part 2, when we’ll look at the 21st Century format clashes – and in the mean time, remember that you can avoid losing footage to discontinued formats by making use of the services offered here at Video2DVD. You can contact us online or at 0800 592433, and find us on Twitter for more updates!