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RIP: Last rites for VHS

For more than 25 years, VHS dominated the world home entertainment market. This Panasonic VTR from 1979 is one of the earlier models.

It changed the lifestyles of a generation, but after a lingering death, the last rites have been sounded for the revolutionary VHS home video format.

All over the world, the Video Home System — which let people record and watch television programs when they wanted rather than at the whim of broadcasters — is in headlong retreat as the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) takes over, Reuters reported.

To add insult to injury, police grudgingly admit that in Britain at least, house burglars don’t even bother to take VHS players anymore because new ones now cost so little that no one wants a second-hand model.

Accepting the inevitable, Britain’s biggest street electronics retailer Dixon’s recently announced that it was taking VHS video players off its shelves for good.

Dixon’s is not alone. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, offers only a handful of stand-alone VHS recorders on its Web site.

For more than 25 years, VHS dominated the home entertainment market after staving off a challenge from Sony’s Betamax in the early 1980s. Throughout that time, the art of actually programming a recorder remained a mystery to many.

When DVDs first came along in the mid-1990s, sales were initially very slow. Today however, sales of DVD players outstrip those of VHS players by a factor of 40-1 globally. Far from undermining the film industry, DVD sales can make the difference between loss and profit.

Internationally the market for DVDs — currently estimated at some $15 billion a year—is expanding exponentially and the industry expects that some 450 million households will have a DVD player by 2008.

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