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How far do you go back with video/audio?

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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Michael Rogers

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Posted March 14 2009 - 05:11 PM

Ever since I was a kid in the 1970's, I loved TV and movies enough to want to be able to have them to watch when I wanted to. I heard about this recorder thing that could save TV but never actually saw a VCR until, about 1979 when a school buddy of mine taped Alien off of cable and I finally got to see it. Of course, a Betamax or VHS was way beyond a school kid's allowance and my parents were not interested in anything like a VCR. It wasn't until High School until I thought I could save up to get anything for the little color TV I had in my room. VCR's were still way out there (5 -7 hundred dollars, as I remember), but the RCA Selectavision CED disc player was something like $150. So I saved up for a stereo one and bought Carrie and Star Trek 2 as an incentive to get it. Now, I don't have to tell some of you what fun CED can be. The wear, the skipping, the side changing. But I still loved it to death. I hooked it up to the TV and my little stereo and finally I could buy movies like you would a record album (I wished I could record stuff though). Pretty soon, I also saved up for a 25" TV monitor (RCA, one of the first ones I saw that wasn't in a wooden console but a modular unit as small as it could be to house the 25" screen. It was compact and had lots of video connections, a remote control, top mounted controls and side mounted stereo speakers. It also had a slightly smoked glass cover for the TV screen that I think made the picture look better ) Pretty soon, I noticed the "This movie has a matrixed surround track" line on the back of MCA movies like Cat People and The Thing (it felt particularly good to pick up an R rated movie on CED that I was still too young to see in the theater. My mom and pop video store didn't care). By that time I was also getting Video Review and fortunately, an issue came along and answered my questions in an article about matrixed surround tracks. It explained about Dolby Stereo and the L-R + delay that gave you the surround track and pointed the way to an electronic device that had the L-R and delay circuitry. So, by (I think) 1984 I had my first (very primitive) surround stereo system. I ordered the version of the surround delay box that you could assemble to save money and got my dad's help. I hooked it up to a (not too powerful) basic amplifier and a couple speakers. It gave a good effect but was far from accurate (I knew it even then). Since the circuit was L-R with none of the steering logic we are accustomed to with Dolby Surround of today, most of the sounds occurring on the left and the right wound up in the back speakers. The delay was supposed to fool the ear into thinking that all but the out phased surround sound effects were coming from the front but it rarely worked that way for me. Part of the problem was that the amp supplying the front speakers and the amp supplying the back speakers were separate and one had to adjust the volume on both and figure a good balance. So, in 48 HRS when you had the hotel shootout, you could hear the bullets hit the door frame seen in one of the shots in the back speakers. I still thought it was cool. Still, I would spend a lot of time tweaking it to try to get the "perfect effect". In the articles on Dolby Surround I got they often pointed to using movies like "The Thing" to see if everything came from the right place. Another article pointed out how they got an "audio zoom" effect from the scare scenes in "Creepshow", where the music would shift between the front and back speakers to "pull you in". From the CED disc to the DVD, I never got an "audio zoom" effect from the scary scenes, so sometimes you take what is said in the articles with a grain of salt. So anyway, that's how it all started. Finally got a VHS in 1988, the first DVD player in 1998 and blu-ray early this year. My teenage self would've killed for the set up I have today, even though it's relatively modest compared to some of yours.

#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H


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Posted March 15 2009 - 03:20 PM

Oh, Video Review! The best video magazine of its time, and one that actually predicted video on memory cards, just like what some people do with their iPods and PSPs. My parents didn't buy a VHS VCR until 1985, but my friends had VCRs for years before, and I remember watching movies on CED with the inherent skipping and all. I started collecting movies in the mid-80s and my first purchase was Sleeping Beauty on VHS. The colour balance was awful, and it was P/S, but the idea of owning movies was great. I bought my first VCR when I got married, but didn't set up real surround sound until 6 years later (I'm still using the same receiver, but will have to upgrade soon for BD). My wife has been very patient with my "addiction."
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Paul Penna

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Posted March 15 2009 - 03:50 PM

Got an Advent Videobeam in 1976, my first Betamax a year later. Oldest video publication in my archives is The Videophile's Newsletter (later just plain The Videophile), issue 8, July/August 1977. Hot news on page 3, under the headline "2 HOURS ... 4 HOURS ... 6 HOURS !! ... WHERE WILL IT ALL END?": "I can now confirm that a 4-hour videocassette recorder is on the way to market. RCA expects to have the two speed Matsushita VHS cassette deck available by 'late summer'." I see I also have Vol. 1 No. 1 of LaserNews, July 1985, which evolved into Videofax with issue 3/4 in July 1986. My oldest Laser Disc Newsletter is #17, January 1986.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted March 15 2009 - 04:13 PM

The first system I actually owned was a VHS system (probably 1987), though I remember seeing Beta tapes/players and recall renting the old RCA CED video discs (they came in a big flat case and worked similar to a record player). My first surround system was probably around 1993. Just basic Dolby stereo surround with my Laserdisc player. I had a separately powered center speaker which was never loud enough and was always prone to shutting off mid-movie. I've upgraded the whole system since then but I'm still using the same main front speakers. Still have my laserdisc player, too, and spin a disc now and then. Still haven't pulled the trigger on BluRay, but hope to begin upgrading again later this year.
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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   David Norman

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Posted March 15 2009 - 04:15 PM

First VCR I saw was somewhere around 1981 -- a 2 piece RCA VHS unit that cost somewhere just above $1000. My first VCR, I must have been in Grad school so somewhere around 1985? In 1987 I got a 27 inch Sylvania TV, hooked it up to my basic Pioneer stereo which gave a huge notch up the sound ladder. The first time I remember playing with a 4 speaker Dolby system was somewhere around 1990, then quickly escalated to my first LD player in 1991 when the big Fantasia box was 1st released, and 5.1 system somewhere early 1993. I remember asking for a small bedroom TV for Christmas somewhere around 1974-75 in High School. It was a 9 or 10 inch B&W with a backup battery power so it must have been something used for RV's back then. As typical I remember staying up to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (the 90 minute version) and occasionally would stay up to see Tom Snyder on the Tomorrow Show. I think Snyder was the absolutely most underrated interview of all time and still remember his 2 parter with John Lennon not long before John was killed. Lennon normally hated things like this, but Snyder got him to talk about things he never did.

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Shad R

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Posted March 15 2009 - 05:19 PM

1994, my friends dad just bought a reciever that had Dolby Surround on the front of it. We rented True Lies, and I was hooked. You could hear jets panning over your head and bullets hitting tile behind you. The scene that did it for me, though, was the horse chase. The horse runs across the screen, and the sound follows him from left, to center, to right. I thought it was so cool. That same year my dad found his old Quadrophonics system from the 70's that had a version of surround sound decoding. It actually did produce some panning effects (from movies like Speed and Long Kiss Goodnight) but wasn't as pronounced as my friends dad's system. 1996 my parents bought a HTIB with Dolby Pro Logic Surround sound, then I bought a JBL sub. 1998 I saved up and bought a DVD player and reciever with Dolby Digital. Now, I have a projector, 100 inch screen, Blu-ray, Mirage subs, Klipsch surrounds and a Denon 100 watt x 7 reciever. How far I've come.

#7 of 11 OFFLINE   David_B_K


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Posted March 16 2009 - 09:01 AM

I bought my first VCR for $1,000, a Panasonic VHS in '78 or '79 when I was in college. I opted for VHS over Beta because you could record 4 hours on VHS originally, compared to Beta's 3 hours. Blank tapes were around $26.99 in those days, so getting the most recording time on a tape was crucial. I was a huge fan of classic movies, so recording crappy 16 MM prints off late night TV seemed awesome to me. Pre-recorded tapes went for something like $79.99, and there was little to choose from and nothing was in OAR if it had been filmed in widescreen. I also bought a used Advent VideoBeam around 1981. Of course, with each succeeding player I bought, the features (wireless remotes, 6 hour recording speed, etc.) increased while the prices went down. I think I paid over $700 for my first VHS Hi-Fi machine, which was the last time I paid a lot for anything VHS. I got my first Laserdisc player in 1984, and my last one in 1996. After getting into laser, I used the VCR strictly for recording off the air, and stopped buying VHS movies on tape. I used to read Video Review as well. I did not save any copies, though I imagine it would be entertaining to revisit what was new back then. I currently have a 62" DLP 1080i TV with a DVD recorder, a region free DVD player, an HD DVD player, a laserdisc player (my last surviving backup player), a VCR/DVD combo player and an Onkyo 5.1 channel receiver with 5 speakers and a subwoofer.

#8 of 11 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted March 16 2009 - 10:40 AM

My first VCR was given to me as a gift for Christmas of 1981(I had a Super8 film projector before that, and those wonderful Castle abridgements of the Universal horror movies). It was great to be able to buy or rent a whole feature film, even if it was only hooked up to my parents 19" portable television. A few years later, I heard Beta Hi-Fi at the local video store, and saved up for a player(I hooked it up to a nice little Technics receiver I had at the time). I also got a 25" Sears console set around the same time. Got a laserdisc player in '95, a decent television a year later(32" RCA), and that was the first "real" home theater setup I had. I bought the first Toshiba DVD player in March of 1997. I've gone through several tvs and video formats, and now have a Sanyo 1080p projector, an 84" screen, Denon 5.1 receiver, and Blu-ray.

#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Ockeghem



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Posted March 16 2009 - 10:56 AM

I think 1983-84. I believe my first VHS tapes were a gift given to me by my wife a few years later. The tapes were episodes of TOS.

#10 of 11 OFFLINE   scribe1964



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Posted March 16 2009 - 03:24 PM

The first VCR I saw was in 1977. A friend's parents had it (they were in the business of making pirate 8 track tapes). I remember the machine being huge. I also remember that they had "Dog Day Afternoon," but it was only half the movie. I have no idea if this was BETA I or what. Later, in 1982, I had my first CED player. My first movie was "Taxi Driver." I sold the player a few years ago on Ebay. I still have some of the discs!

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   BarryR


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Posted March 17 2009 - 04:42 AM

My parents bought their first VCR in 1983--a top loading Quasar. Many VCRs followed, but I still have that '83 VCR set aside like a museum piece. Even back then I knew it was a historical purchase, like the first family TV in the '50s. I bought a Pioneer laserdisc player in 1989--and it still works! Just bought my first Blu-Ray player two months ago, so the hi-tech fun continues...

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