Remembering the Betamax



Prior to the days of DVD, Laser Disc, and VHS, there lived BETAMAX. Throughout the 80s, BETAMAX was the dominant force in Filipino Video Culture. This is my tribute to the most influencial tool in my Filipino American life... the Sony Betamax. A moment of silence please... thank you. On with the tribute.

Oh childhood, I do recall. Days when old school was still new, breaking was fresh, and the cold war was still cold. Those were the fun days of my life. But they would not have been as fun and memorable if it wasn't for the Sony Betamax. I was first introduced to this machine of gods when visiting my cousin's house in the early 80s. He asked me if I wanted to watch cartoons but it was night time so I told him, "There's no more cartoons on right now." My cousin then took me into a room with a television and an electronic device with wood paneling right next to it that was constantly blinking "12:00". He then pulled out a tape that said "VOLTES V", put the tape in the box and for the first time in my life... I watched a video of Voltes V on BETAMAX.

Needless to say that my mom and dad found me and were just as enamored with this new, cutting edge device called BETAMAX so they decided to pick one up for our house. They went to the local electronics store (BERJOS DISCOUNT on Vermont and Melrose) and bought our first Beta along with BETA TAPES. It was beautiful. Japanese technology wrapped in a silver and wood panel case, an eject button that ejected the slot to put the tape in, a remote control with a long cord that could plug into the beta so that it could extend from the Beta to the couch, and a whopping 14 channel capacity, and might I say it was as heavy as a fricken Buick. My brother and I felt like we were kings. We could now TAPE stuff from t.v. and primitive cable (ON T.V.) and watch it over and over and over again. My brother taped every Lakers game and I taped every episode of my favorite show at the time... SHA NA NA. Bowzer kicked ass.

And the popularity came with the beta. Soon all our friends from our school were coming over to watch stuff on our beta. They were impressed by my vast collection of Sha Na Na episodes. People mainly came over to watch the rated R movies that we recorded from ON T.V., a primitive cable company. I'm sure that my house was the place where most of my friends popped their first boners watching movies like "Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight" and the classic film "Porky's". I know I did. The pool scene with Phoebe Cates kicked ass.

The next momentus occation came in the form of my first communion. The reason why the occasion was so momentus was not for the fact that I was taking part in a holy sacrament... it's because my mom gave me a Betamax of my own on that day as a gift. So you know what that meant... now that we had two betas, my brother and I decided to begin our new past time... copying and pirating movies that we rented from Music Plus and the Wherehouse. Our collection of betamax movies grew at an exponential rate. Anything we rented... we copied. This meant more people coming over more often to watch all these movies that we had... that also meant more first time boners... especially with that unedited "Girls on Film" video by Duran Duran. Then, ON T.V. decided to do the one thing that would have changed my life forever... they televised STAR WARS uncut with no interuptions. My Betamax was FIRED UP and ready when they showed STAR WARS and I relived the blowing up of the death star as many ti! mes as I relived that pool scene with Phoebe Cates from "Fast Times and Ridgemont High".

Time progressed and although VHS was taking over, our family kept the betamax as the vcr of choice. We went to the Philippines in 1986 and my brother and I thought we died and went to BETAMAX heaven. EVERYTHING WAS IN BETA!!! But alas, it was coming to an end... the video stores in the United States were no longer carrying beta.

I miss those days... the days of the smaller tape with better sound and video quality. I still have a wall full of betamax movies that we pirated. Some titles include Breakin', Breakin' 2 : Electric Boogaloo, Revenge of the Ninja (starring the great Sho Kosugi), Michael Jackson's Thriller and the making of Thriller, and yes I have my tape of Sha Na Na episodes. I can't watch them anymore, all the betas we had broke down. But even though most of our t.v.s have a vhs connected to them, we still have one tv with a beta connected. And even though that betamax can't play tapes... it makes one helluva clock.

So I bid Betamax farewell with loving memories. There is always going to be a place in this Filipino heart for the Sony Betamax.

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Submitted Friday, 17 May 2002 18:33 BST