Fifty U.S., European and Asian companies agreed Thursday on standards for digital video cassette recorders, which provide better picture quality and cleaner copies of tapes.

Among participants in the agreement are major Japanese makers of VCRs and leading computer manufacturers, including IBM Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. Digital VCRs also can be used to store large amounts of computer data.

The standards call for two cassette sizes. The regular size would be about two-thirds as big as a VHS cassette and would record for 4 1/2 hours, while a smaller version would be about half the regular size and tape for one hour.

The first digital VCRs could be available early next year for about $ 2,900, according to the trade publication Electronic Engineering Times.

Digital VCRs have long been used by professionals, but prior to recent advances in data compression were too big for homes.

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