Betaphile Club 1988-1991

Why Beta?

Are you an OS/2 Warp fan? Have you participated in a discussion about the advantages of OS/2 Warp vs. the more popular Windows 95? Do you argue the benefits of OpenVMS over Unix? Or vice versa? Or either of them over Windows NT? How about Digital Alpha vs. Intel Pentium Pro microprocessors? Are you a Macintosh afficionado? If so, you can understand how a technically superior product can lose ground to an inferior, though more popular, product; Even with a head start. You might also understand how someone could be passionate about a product and want to have a club, not unlike Mustang or Harley-Davidson fans.

Simply put, the Beta video format is a better system. SuperBeta and ED Beta furthered that still. Beta owners liked the features of their machines, features that weren't available, or weren't of the same quality on other formats. Many chose Beta after doing side-by-side comparisons with VHS machines. However, for years, because of its smaller market share, the Beta format and its supporters were treated as second class citizens.

The Beta format had been declared dead by many starting as far back as the late '70s. Even though the Beta format was at the forefront of video technology, the first format to develop various features, the first Hi-Fi video recorder, the first camcorder, and generally a full year ahead of the VHS camp, it was constantly being referred to as obsolete. After years of either being ignored or seeing nothing but anti-Beta press, and not wanting to see a good thing abandoned, Beta lovers (``Betaphiles'') found the need for a user's group to defend their interests.

On January 11, 1988, Sony announced that in addition to Beta, they would begin marketing a VHS recorder later that year. Betamax owners, used to being treated as second class citizens for choosing a superior format by others, were fearful of becoming second class to even the company that created the Beta format and with it the Home Video revolution. This event prompted me and a video-hobbiest friend to start such a group early in 1988.

['Beta is Better!' bumpersticker]

Why Beta is better than VHS

Both Beta and VHS are 1/2'' video cassette recorder (VCR) formats based on azimuth helical scan technology. This being the case, still, there are many technical aspects of the two formats that differ. A good explanation of video technology on the web is Magnavox's Video Technology Handbook.

An outline (that will be expanded soon):

Some Beta links

Sony's current SuperBeta model(s)
The Betamax Case: Sony's defense of home video taping rights
The Beta video format in the UK
Ray Glasser's Betamax Info guide
Betamax PALsite
Beta Lore: Personal stories of Beta owners
Beta digest mailing list
Absolute Beta
Brauer Beta catalog (link nolonger active?) newsgroup

``Beta es para siempre. Palabra de honor. Palabra de Sony.''

which translates to:

``Beta is forever. It's our word of honor. The word of Sony.''

-- Quoted from a full page December 30, 1988 advertisement in ``La Estrella de Panama''

The Club

With a call of ``Betaphile's Unite!'', the Betaphile Club was an expression of Beta advocacy. The club's purpose was to organize loyal Beta owners, to be a source of Beta news and resources, negotiate special discounts, generate contacts among people who shared their hobby, and generally promote the format.

Upon joining the club, a member received a membership kit with a membership card, one of three bumper stickers, a button, an ``I <heart> Beta'' keychain and a ``Call to Action'' which described the Club's goals and how they could help further them.

[Cover of the Betaphile recorder]


The main benefit of the club was its newsletter, the Betaphile recorder . It was a full-color publication which was printed six times a year and ranged from 12 to 16 pages per issue. In all, 11 issues were printed.

the Betaphile recorder included articles about television and video technology with a more technical bent than the major media. It focused on Beta video recorders (from consumer to industrial and professional models) and had news on new models (It was the first to break the news about the 15th anniversary Betamax, the SL-HF2100) and information from both Japan and inside Sony itself. It also featured reports on trade shows, reprinted articles from other publications as well as original articles written by members, highlighted sources of Beta programming and had special offers from companies to members that the club arranged.


The Membership

Built from small classified ads in video publications, word of mouth, and being mentioned in the general media, the Betaphile Club grew to approximately 2,000 members. The Betaphile Club had members in all 50 states, Canada and 8 other countries. A number of questions were asked on the membership form, here are some Statistics.

Media Coverage of the Club

[First page of Entertainment Weekly article]

From the April 27, 1990 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Media coverage of the club ranged from the good, to the bad and worse.

about the Betaphile recorder...

about me...

a listing of coverage...

Last modified on February 5, 1998 by Vance Haemmerle