11/19/1984 at 01:00 AM EST
A given machine can use only one kind of tape. There are two kinds of tape now, and soon there will be a third. The first two, both half-inch tapes, are called Beta and VHS. Their technical differences are not worth worrying about. Sony has added plenty of frills to its Beta machines, like hi-fi sound and small video cameras, but VHS makers copycat them. What counts instead is popularity: VHS has won, hands down, over Sony's Beta. That's important if you want to rent tapes—many stores now carry only VHS—or trade them with friends. If you're sure that you'd never want to do this—that all you want to do is record shows and watch them—then Beta machines can do the job for less than VHS varieties. (Even Beta's creator, Sony, has acknowledged the competition: The company is now making VHS tapes.) The third format, 8 mm, will be smaller and used mainly for home movies. With so many VHS machines already sold, it will be difficult for 8 mm to seriously dent the market.