Sunday, April 19, 2015

At Flashbak: Slipped Discs (Remembering the Home Video Disc Revolution of the 1980s That Wasn’t)

This week at Flashbak, I looked at the Video Disc options of the 1980s,when the future of the home video market appeared to be...VHS.

"Today, our home video options include streaming, and -- for the dedicated collector or aficionado -- DVD and Blu-Ray discs.

But if history had gone just a bit differently, the 1980s would have been the decade not of VHS (after that format vanquished Betamax…), but the decade of MCA Disco-Vision, RCA Select-a-vision, or even JVC’s VHD (Video High Density) System.

These were the contenders in the arena, and they were all slightly different from one another.

The Select-a-Vision from RCA, for example, was termed a Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) system.  The CED discs were large scale, just like old fashioned phonographs, or records, and operated on a needle and groove system.

Although the CED technology was invented as early as 1964, CED movies were not released on the market until 1981. Like laser discs of later vintage, these CEDS could only hold sixty-minutes of data per side, meaning that movies had to be stopped and the discs flipped in mid-progress. The CED system was discontinued in 1986 after poor sales.  And yet, in the early 1980s, before VHS took off, Sears, Montgomery Ward and other retailers anticipated that it was CED that would win the home video revolution.

The VHD System, from JVC (a subsidiary of Matsuhita) was unveiled in 1979 and marketed in the early 1980s.  These discs used a stylus (like the CED), but the discs were groove-less, diminishing visual hiccups.

The VHD system was marketed as the low-cost alternative to laser discs.  The pitch was: “More to see! More to Hear! More to Learn! More to Share! More to Experience!”  A “universe of excitement” was promised.

MCA Disco-Vision, also known as the Video Disc System, premiered in 1978, and since MCA owned Universal Studios, a good number of Universal movies (including Jaws [1975]) made their way to this format." (Cont. at Flashbak)

1 comment:

  1. Doesn't it seem funny after going through the years before hard disc TV recording became common but after DVD took over the market for home video that the complaint I remember hearing most about these disc systems in the 80's was that you couldn't record on them?