Can you believe videotapes have existed for over sixty years?!

It's easy to forget magnetic tape's importance for developing amateur filming and TV broadcasting we know today - especially since everyone streams films and TV shows digitally now. But, for years, large tech companies fought for the most popular videotape with the highest quality video.

Find out how magnetic tape developed from VHS to digital streaming with our timeline of the most popular videotapes over the last sixty years.

1956: 2-Inch Quadruplex Videotape

Quadruplex Videotape
Source: Techcrunch

Hello, magnetic tape! The beginning of videotapes came in the form of a 2-inch reel called the Quadruplex. Broadcast television predominantly used Quadruplex because it was cheaper than cine reel and had a good picture quality.

1969: U-matic

Source: Obsolete Media

The traditional plastic casing comes into the market with the U-matic. Television news quickly adopted the U-matic as videos could be shown straight away, unlike 16mm cine film that filmmakers had to develop in the darkroom first.

1975: Betamax

Source: Illinois Library

Introducing one of the biggest shake-ups in film recording: Betamax, the first consumer videotape. Watch whatever, whenever. Consumers could now record television programs to watch at another time - no more missing your favourite soap!

1976: VHS

Source: Adobe Stock Images

JCR developed a cheaper alternative for television recording. They designed a tape that could play on anyone's television. Its patented design and reasonable manufacturing costs led to VHS becoming the most popular videotape ever created.

1978: LaserDisc

Source: Adobe Stock Images

Surprisingly, the disc came into the market before the eighties! LaserDisc offered high-quality feature films for consumers to buy... if only they weren't so big and expensive.

1982: Betacam

Source: Illinois Library

Sony released a better-quality Betamax tape designed for professional TV recording.

1982: Compact VHS (VHS-C)

Source: Adobe Stock Images

The compact VHS makes it easier for filming home movies on smaller cameras, and consumers can easily watch their videos back on TV with a cassette adaptor.

1985: Video8

Source: Adobe Stock Images

Video8's miniature design paved the way for handheld camcorders and the later cultural revolution of amateur shaky-cam filming.

1987: D-1

Source: Obsolete Media

Digital comes into circulation! D-1 was the first digital tape designed for professional studios.

1989: Hi8

Source: Takealot

One of the more popular videotape transfers at Digital Converters, the Sony's Hi8 compact tape competed with Super-VHS (1987) in quality.

1991: D-3

Source: Wikipedia

D-3 was an improvement from the D-1. TV studios (like BBC) used D-3 to archive older analogue formats.

1993: Digital Betacam

Digital Betacam
Source: AV-IQ

Sony was quick on D-3's toes by producing the Digital Betacam. It quickly overtook D-3 in popularity.

1995: MiniDV

Source: Adobe Stock Images

Panasonic and Sony release a more compact 8mm tape. The MiniDV proved that smaller is better. See our Mini DV to Digital page for more on converting Mini DV tapes.

1996: DVD-Video

Video DVD
Source: Adobe Stock Images

It only took twenty years, but a smaller, cheaper and better quality disc was released on the market! Consumers quickly changed from lower quality VHS to DVD when watching films and home entertainment. As DVDs themselves are now getting old and hardly anyone has a DVD player these days, we now offer DVD to digital conversion, including DVD to USB and DVD to MP4

1999: Digital 8

Digital 8

Sony releases a digital version of the 8mm tape. It is a similar picture quality to DV tapes.

2001: MicroMV

Source: Wikiwand

The smallest videotape ever created fails to persuade consumers to buy it. MicroMV could have been popular if Sony didn't design the video only to be compatible with Sony-owned editing software. 

2003: HDV

Stanley Productions

High-Definition Video was an affordable, high-quality format for consumers and professionals. It was developed by JVC and supported by Sony.

2004: Mini DVD

Mini DVD

If smaller tapes worked, then maybe smaller DVD's would work as well? The mini-DVD was useful for DVD-based camcorders, but movie releases were not so popular.

2004: Nintendo Game Boy Advance Video

Game Boy Advance Video

This video cartridge was a fun novelty for kids; it exemplified how the consumers could watch films on multiple devices.

2004: Universal Media Disc

Universal Media Disc
Source: Every Bit Gaming

In the same year, Sony released the Universal Media Disc. This mini-disc could contain games or videos on it. Sony used it exclusively for Playstation Portable (PSP) games.

2006: Blu-Ray DVD


HD films are released on disc - just before the rise of streaming services.

2016: Ultra 4K-HD Blu-Ray

Ultra 4K HD
Source: New York Times

The disc will never give in! Although streaming is now the most popular way to watch films, the Ultra 4K HD disc gives collectors a reason to keep buying Blu-Ray.

Bring your videos back to life with Digital Converters, the highest customer-rated digitisation service in the UK! You can watch all your favourite videos by converting them to DVD, USB or a cloud download. Learn about our VHS to digital process here.