Prominance of Beta in Anime Tape Trading

The roughly mid-90's and earlier (generally pre-Toonami, pre-anime boom) era of anime & manga fandom: early cons, clubs, tape trading, Nth Generation VHS fansubs, old magazines & fanzines, fandubs, ancient merchandise, rec.arts.anime, and more!
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Prominance of Beta in Anime Tape Trading

Post by Drew_Sutton »

I was listening to a wrestling podcast recently and there was a discussion about tape trading on the episode. There were some comments made by the host that I thought was pretty interesting - but also led me to some questions.

The full segment is here:

They start talking about some of the earliest forays into taping wrestling programs and making connections and trading with other fans. But from this timestamp, responding to a question about how much of his tape collection was Beta versus VHS, he notes that 40% of his collection is still Beta which is the lion's share of his tapes up through the 80s. However, he made the following comment which got me thinking here:
When I would get tapes from Japan, because I have all of [Giant] Baba's and [Antonio] Inoki's television programs from like 1981 until the early 1990s, those were on Beta. Because people in Japan were recording them on Beta, because that was the dominant format.
My question is, how prevalent was Beta in the anime tape trading circles, especially for those folks who were trading with people in Japan? I imagine this is limited to trading mostly in the early and mid 1980s? A few ads from magazines I have seem to start neglecting Beta by the mid/late 80s in favor of VHS and LaserDisc. Outside of ads though, I think I've only seen anime on Beta in the stray eBay listing 15 years ago or so. We were a VHS house and I only ever remember seing Beta tapes on the shelves at one local rental shop when I was really little. All of my anime tape trading was all in the 1990s when Beta was nothing but a punchline in the home consumer market.

Or, maybe, is this a(nother?) case of wrestling fans being weird.?
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Re: Prominance of Beta in Anime Tape Trading

Post by davemerrill »

in my anime nerd circles in the 80s and early 90s Beta was seen as the superior format - the tapes were 3 hours long at "SP" mode, and technically the image was better than VHS. But here in North America, more people had VHS. Tape trading was mostly a VHS situation. I wound up buying a pretty good Beta deck at a yard sale in 1990 or thereabouts, and for a while good quality Beta tapes were cheaper than their VHS counterpart. So if I was bringing a deck along to copy tapes from someone at a house party or a convention room party or a club meeting, I'd bring my Beta along and copy anime for myself on Beta. This had the benefit of being a format not a lot of others had, so when people asked to borrow my tapes, I'd say "it's on Beta," and those tapes would stay with me.

As the 90s progressed the Beta tapes got harder to find and eventually, of course, things went digital. I transferred most of my Beta tapes to DVD and the deck and most of the tapes themselves are long gone. I do have a Super Beta deck I bought in a thrift store for $10, but it needs some repairs which I may or may not ever get around to doing.

I think I can count the number of times I copied Beta tapes for another anime fan on the fingers of one hand, even when trading with people in Japan.
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