Here are 6 facts about VHS technology you probably didn’t know

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If you are contemplating watching a movie at home today, you’ll probably be thinking about a streaming service, a DVD, or a USB. Generation Z and a sizable proportion of Millennials may find it difficult to envisage a world where VHS tapes were the dominant medium of home entertainment. 

VHS was at its peak in the 80s and much of the 90s. Many homes still have a large stack of tapes in need of VHS to USB or DVD conversion. VHS offered a great way to watch one’s favorite movies and capture precious family moments. Here’s a look at six facts that even the most ardent VHS users of yesteryear might not be aware of.

1. Invention

Japanese electronics maker JVC invented the VHS tape at the start of the 1970s. There were already other types of magnetic tapes available in the market before VHS. These were, however, mostly reserved for imaging in medical labs and production for television sets. 

It wasn’t until JVC developed a product targeted to the mass market that magnetic recording tapes saw rapid adoption for in-home use across the world.

2. First movie

Like the invention of the VHS, the first movie was released in Asia. The Young Teacher, a drama made in South Korea, was the first film made available in VHS format. It is about a teacher who uses volleyball games to strengthen camaraderie among students while boosting their self-confidence. 

Whereas the movie itself didn’t enjoy much local or international acclaim, the VHS format itself quickly became popular and established itself as the leading medium for home movie release.

3. Best-selling movie

The first VHS movie may have been shot and released in Asia, but there’s no beating the juggernaut that is Hollywood. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that the best-selling movie on VHS was produced in America. The Lion King was released in 1995. 32 million VHS copies of the film were sold around the world, generating a staggering US$ 520 million in revenue. 

If there’s one VHS tape that you’ll find in nearly every Baby Boomer and Generation X household in America that still has a VCR, it’s The Lion King.

4. Last movie

A History of Violence was the last film released on VHS. Unlike the first VHS movie, this was a flick that made a lasting impression. The plot revolves around a small-town family man who must use violence to protect his friends. This causes the community to question his past and shakes the foundations of his family. 

It was nominated for two Golden Globes and two Oscars. Its reputation as the last movie released on VHS proved to be just the cherry on top.

5. Tape length

If unwound from its container and stretched to full length, a VHS tape is 430 meters or 1,410 feet long. It can go around an Olympic size athletics track and leave some tape to spare. The tape can hold 4-5 hours of recording time. That’s impressive, but there were some movies that were too long to fit in a single tape. 

Lengthy films like Titanic, The Godfather and Gone With the Wind were shipped in two separate VHS tapes. Of course, two tapes meant you had to keep your fingers crossed in the hope of never losing one or having the content of one tape corrupted.

6. Last VCR

Just like the invention of the VHS tape, credit for the last VCR manufactured goes to Japan. Except this time, instead of JVC, it was Funai Electric in June 2016. In 2015, Funai Electric built 750,000 VCRs, a far cry from the peak of 15 million units. 

News of the last VCR made headlines around the world, indicating that despite its obsolescence, many people still felt nostalgic about the VHS format.

For three decades, the VHS was a central part of entertainment in homes around the world. It’s an indelible part of modern home entertainment history.

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