videocassette recorder

videocassette recorder (VCR), device that can record television programs or the images from a video camera on magnetic tape (see tape recorder); it can also play prerecorded tapes. A VCR converts the separate audio and video portions of a television or video camera signal to magnetic flux variations to magnetize the tape. The video recording heads move in a direction almost perpendicular to the tape movement, resulting in tracks that run diagonally across the tape width and increasing tape capacity. A camcorder combines a video camera and VCR in a single handheld machine.

The first commercially successful VCR, which used a Betamax format, was introduced in 1975. A competitive format, VHS (Video Home System), was introduced in the same year and became the dominant system. Although both systems use 0.5-in.- (13-mm-) wide tape, they are mutually incompatible; a tape recorded on one system cannot be played on the other. A third system using 0.3-in.-wide (8-mm) tape was introduced in 1984; it is used primarily in camcorders. In 1994 electronics companies agreed on international standards for a digital VCR. The introduction of the DVD (1996) and the recordable DVD (see digital versatile disc) led to a steady shift away from the VCR. By 2003 rentals of DVDs surpassed VHS tapes, and by 2016 manufacturers had stopped producing both Betamax and VHS machines.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Electrical Engineering