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VCR. Vidéo recorders

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  • VCR. Vidéo recorders

    When did the first video recorders reach the shops for retail in the U.K. ? Here in Canada/U.S.A. The first video recorders for sale was around 1972. Sears was the retail shop selling them. Very expensive machines. Around 25 hundred dollars. Item for thé well to do. A few films were available. The tape cartridge was a v shape cartridge. After a couple of years it fizzled out. In 1975/1976 Sony introduces the Betamax video recorder. The price range was around 1500.00 dollars. Many large outlets were underselling the shops retailing the Betamax. Walmart and Costco, large retail shops, were not around in those years. A few years later VHS machines reached the shops. A battle between the two systems took place, VHS won.
    Last edited by Eric7885; 13 January 2021, 09:43 PM. Reason: Additional information

  • #2
    I remember my school having a Philips N1500 VCR in 1978. It took square cassettes with one spool on top of the other, like a large Super 8 film cassette. The picture quality was poor with a lot of smearing, and sideways displacement of colour relative to B&W picture. Unlike the photos in, it had a separate clock and tuner unit which plugged into the back and protruded upwards; it had big knurled silver knobs for setting the timer.

    When I worked in the school's audio-video room in 1980/81 for my prefect duty (a very cushy posting compared with keeping discipline in the dinner queue or breaking up fights in the playground!) they had two VHS recorders with wired remote controls. One was used for driving the TV that teachers used for showing educational programmes to their classes; the other was used for sixth-formers (age 17-18, studying for A level univeristy entrance exams) to request programmes to watch for private study. Either/both machines were used in the evenings for recording programmes that teachers had requested.

    But before that, the first VTR that I saw was an open-reel one in 1976 in a company which organised a summer school that I went on. That could only record/play in B&W.

    I never actually saw a Betamax recorder (except in magazine adverts): any friends who had VCRs had opted for VHS.

    My parents rented a VHS recorder from the early 80s and when they returned it to the rental shop when they upgraded to a newer (rented) VCR, I bought their second-hand VCR from the rental shop. It had no remote control: all programming and tape control had to be done from the front panel, and it could only record two timed events. It was also single speed SP (so no more than 3 hours on an E180 cassette). When that began chewing tapes, I bought a much better one with hifi NICAM stereo sound which could record up to 8 events (each of which could be "every day", "every weekday" or "every Thursday" etc) recorded at 1/2 (LP) or 1/3 (EP) speed and so (with the later E300 cassettes) could fit up to 15 hours of recordings onto a tape - useful if I wanted to record a lot while I was away on holiday! I still have that VCR - kept in case I want to watch old tapes or copy them to my computer.
    Last edited by martinu; 13 January 2021, 11:34 PM.


    • #3
      This Philips brand one dates from 1974, I recall seeing them in Stores also, a pretty penny they were, but 60 minutes recording wasn't much use for say a film

      It was 1981 colleagues and people I knew started getting VCR's, either renting or buying (still not cheap), a difficult decision was what format to go for, VHS or Betamax, recording quality was said to be superior on Betamax, but in 1982 it looked like VHS was going to win the day, so we rented one, a heavy Baird brand one (part of the Thorn company stable).

      By 1986 prices had come down enough to purchase one, an Akai, which was good.

      In recent years I've chucked out the large collection of tapes I had, the combi's I purchased in the early 2000's started to chew them up !.........

      Click image for larger version

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      • #4
        I still have mine and is a vintage 1979 model and weighs 19.2kg which is approx 3 stone.


        • #5
          Silver Bullet. When I purchased my first vcr, it was a Sony Betamax. It weighed about 36 pounds. Your machine at 3 stone, that would be around 44 pounds or so. Consider the weight of a DVD player. My Philips blue ray player weighs about 5 pounds.


          • #6
            Interesting. In 1976 video recorders were now being purchased. I think that year, Gone With the Wind was first televised on the telly. Many people wanted to record it. You had trouble finding blanc video tapes in the shops to record with. In those years no video movie rental shops were around. I think, at least here in Canada and the U.S.A., video rental shops, renting out movies, emerge round 1978. Betamax picture quality was superior to the VH picture quality. VH tapes would run for two hour, Sony Betamax tapes would run for one hour.


            • #7
              I believe in the early 70's, Orson Welles made six films especially for the Sears video recorder rental market.


              • #8
                My first experience was in 1972 with a JVC video recorder using u-matic 3/4" (19mm) cassettes.


                • #9
                  I'm puzzled about the VCR that I remember from school. As I remember, it looked like a Philips N1500, with the slightly dished polished metal play/ff/rew/rec buttons. But it had a vertical box at the rear that was twice as high as the rest of the case, and this had an analogue clock with a couple of cylindrical metal-effect plastic knobs sticking out of the side for setting the clock and (maybe) the timed events.

                  It was capable for recording from a camera as well as off-air, so it evidently it also had baseband composite video input. I remember one was used to film French role-playing exercises. Somewhere there is (was?) a tape of me (playing the owner of a restaurant) being interviewed by "the police" because I has shot a robber in self-defence, and I had to say "I was afraid. I thought he was going to kill me. When he attacked my daughter, I shot him." - in French. It was all very hammy and dreadfully over-acted - and in execrable schoolby French.

                  I wonder if our VCR was a 1520 (no tuner or clock) but capable of editing, with some form of add-on tuner/timer plugged into the back.

                  The two Ferguson Videostar (identified by googling "VHS piano key") VCRs that replaced it were a dramatic improvement, though the cassette top-loading mechanism was prone to jam unless you pressed down equally on both sides to keep it running vertically. It had a wired remote with a slide control which allowed various slow speeds down to one frame a second, and also 2x speed with sound (badly pitch-shifted to prevent the Pinky and Perky effect and yet still be sort-of intelligible).

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                  As with all VCRs of that age, there was a long delay and a loud clonk when switching between rew, play, ff, while servos unloaded/reloaded the tape. The counter was a mechanical one with arbitrary "units" which was very non-linear - a difference of 100 in the readings was a different length of time depending on whether the tape was at the beginning or end of the cassette. My later VCR (which had been my parents') had an electronic display for the counter but it was still non-linear. It wasn't until I got my own VCR with NICAM stereo that there was a real-time counter in HH:MM:SS when they'd perfected being able to count frame-sync pulses even as the tape wound at high speed.


                  • #10
                    Those piano key VCR's were terrible if you pressed a key and your finger slipped off!! OUCH!!