This popped up into my email this week. Seriously.
Sony announces end of production of Betamax cassettes for March next year, 40 years after its introduction and 28 years after losing format war to VHS
And all I could think of was the language from the ‘Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction by libraries in archives’ in US Code Title 17 (yeah, I’m quoting copyright law) that says the specific reproduction allowed to libraries for preservation and such if the “existing format in which the work is stored has become obsolete.” ‘Obsolete’ is later defined as the circumstance where “the machine or device necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.”
I realize the announcement was in regard to Betamax cassettes and not the players, but it makes me wonder how long a format clings to life when the regular consuming public leaves it behind, believes it to be dead. If obsolete really boils down to commercially available, then Sony’s announcement is only a depressing assertion that the aging VHS collections of the library world, those that no one is willing or able to up-format commercially, are going to wither away. Can’t we just move on already? I say this, but then I have recently acquired a turntable, cassette, CD player combo, and I know there is a growing nostalgic format movement (at least among my friends).