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The Birth of Home Recording


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#1 of 42 Neil Brock

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Posted December 14 2012 - 03:54 AM

Here's an interesting clip from What's My Line, showing the first consumer video cassette recorder:

#2 of 42 Regulus

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Posted December 14 2012 - 08:47 AM

I read somewhere that the first Home Video Recorders came out in the mid 1960s, but the cost was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to prohibitive for most people, and thus they didn't last too long (Of course the first Sony Betamax Recorders sold for over :eek: $2,500.00 :eek: in the mid 1970s). I remember Hollywood fought tooth and nail to outlaw these machines, but in 1984 the US Supreme Court issued its "Betamax" Ruling that said home recording did not violate Copyright Laws. At about the same time the price dropped on these machines to a point where they became much more affordable, In Christmas of that year my Father surprised all of us by giving us VCRs as a Christmas Present. Watching TV was never the same after that, then in 1992 a little something came out called the DVD. It too was cost prohibitive at first, but within ten years it too dropped in price, four years later something happened on TV :f that made me switch my viewing ENTIRELY to DVDs. :D

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#3 of 42 Steve Tannehill

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Posted December 14 2012 - 09:22 AM

then in 1992 a little something came out called the DVD. It too was cost prohibitive at first, but within ten years it too dropped in price, four years later something happened on TV :f that made me switch my viewing ENTIRELY to DVDs. :D

DVD came out in Japan in 1996 and the US in 1997, not 1992.

#4 of 42 Regulus

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Posted December 14 2012 - 09:34 AM

DVD came out in Japan in 1996 and the US in 1997, not 1992.

DOH! :blush:

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#5 of 42 DeWilson

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Posted December 14 2012 - 10:05 AM

Here's an interesting clip from What's My Line, showing the first consumer video cassette recorder:

Cartravision was a great idea,it's too bad they had problems. Quality wasn't bad for a process that skipped frames.

#6 of 42 PatrickGoodluck

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Posted December 14 2012 - 11:53 AM

What a fascinating and interesting clip! Thanks for sharing this, Danny. Pity home video recorders weren't readily available and affordable to the general public at least 20 years earlier. There surely would be a lot less "lost" shows out there now. I got my first VCR back in 1981 and remember how exciting this was at the time. Although I struggled with storage by the end of the home video era. Now still slowly transferring everything to a digital format. A nice problem to have though.

#7 of 42 Joe Lugoff

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Posted December 15 2012 - 02:59 AM

... four years later something happened on TV :f that made me switch my viewing ENTIRELY to DVDs. :D

Which was what?

#8 of 42 Regulus

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Posted December 15 2012 - 06:31 AM

Six years ago, I saw an age-inappropriate Commercial aired during a Kid's Show, :eek: and got so :f "P-Oed" :f that I cancelled my Pay-TV Subscription!

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#9 of 42 ThatDonGuy

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Posted December 18 2012 - 07:55 AM

Originally Posted by PatrickGoodluck 

Pity home video recorders weren't readily available and affordable to the general public at least 20 years earlier. There surely would be a lot less "lost" shows out there now.


On the other hand, had the DVR come out first, chances are there would be more "lost shows" as not nearly as many people would have bothered making collections of shows that weren't only on hard drives (which, when they went bad, meant that they were lost forever).


As foe early video recorders, my elementary/middle school district had a reel-to-reel one back around 1974; it was meant to be used with a video camera, but it did have a TV tuner, although I don't think it had any timer capability - and even if it did, you couldn't program it to change channels, as it had VHF and UHF dials.


I have heard two different stories as to what would have happened had that Supreme Court decision gone the other way - one version was that the movie companies would have "settled" for a 25 cents per tape tax, similar to the 3% tax on blank digital audio media (IIRC, some standalone CD burners would only record to specially-marked CDs on which the tax was paid, and not on "data" CDs); another had that tax at 25 dollars a tape.

Another "what if" - what if DVDs had become immediately popular, as opposed to about 15 years after VCRs?  Would we still be waiting eight years or so after a TV series went into syndication before it was released on video?  "The version I remember was," when DVDs first came out, the studios felt that so few people owned them that it wouldn't be a real problem if they released seasons of TV shows immediately, rather than waiting for two rounds of four-year syndication contracts to expire first, and when there wasn't a drop in the number of people watching the syndicated episodes, they decided to make this a regular practice.



#10 of 42 Regulus

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Posted December 18 2012 - 10:41 AM

As I mentioned earlier I got my VCR in 1984. I used it to record mostly movies, I shudder to imagine what my house would look like if I had all my TV Shows on VHS instead of DVDs. :laugh: When DVDs made their appearance it wasn't long before entire TV Series became available on the little buggers. You could place an entire Season of a TV Show in the same place one VHS Tape took. At first they were quite expensive (Around $50 to $60 a Season :eek:), but by 2006 enough of them had made their way to the "Bargain Bins" to make collecting them affordable. :D

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#11 of 42 Jack P

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Posted December 18 2012 - 11:05 AM

The first time I saw a TV commercial for a Sony Betmax machine was around 1977-78. A cabdriver is saying, "I'm working the late shift, but I'm not missing the Late Show." Then after the announcer shows off the details it closes with the cabbie saying to his fellow ones arriving for the morning shift, "Good morning, gentlemen. I'm going home to watch the Late Show." He walks away and they're shaking their heads thinking, "That's guy's weird!" The earliest Betmax recordings I have ever seen date to early 1976 which was the year it first became available. One person in 1976 did sports collectors a favor when he recorded Game 3 of the 1976 NLCS between Philadelphia and Cincinnati because belive it or not, while the video of the game exists in the MLB vault, it has no broadcast audio on it. When a cable channel wanted to replay the game, they had to merge a radio broadcast to the picture, but meanwhile us collectors who have circulated the game could still watch the original with the original TV audio commentary that is now "officially" lost! But there was an even an earlier version prior to Betamax called "Cartridgevision" which I think is the one being demonstrated on the WML clip. The one problem with it is that it would render the image in a kind of kinescopey look without the sharpness of image we're more accustomed to. I have some recordings from the 1973 baseball postseason that come off one of these kinds of machines. I did not get my first VCR until March 1985. Price, $425. And yes, movies were a bigger priority for all of us in those days because TV shows we were accustomed to seeing over and over again popping up all the time but the ability to see a MOVIE again and again when we wanted to was something different.

#12 of 42 AndyMcKinney

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Posted December 18 2012 - 12:49 PM

What a fascinating and interesting clip! Thanks for sharing this, Danny. Pity home video recorders weren't readily available and affordable to the general public at least 20 years earlier. There surely would be a lot less "lost" shows out there now.

Not necessarily, though. In the early days of home video (including the reel-to-reel formats of the 1960s), blank media was so expensive that most people only used it for time-shifting as far as TV shows go, so it's not likely we'd have, say, a complete run of Doctor Who or anything. I'm sure some missing stuff would have survived (as, indeed, some has been recovered from the reel-to-reel formats), but probably not a whole lot more.

#13 of 42 Bob_S.

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Posted December 19 2012 - 10:29 AM

I remember when I was in either 7th or 8th grade (1980-81), my friend had a Betamax and every Monday morning he would tell all about the movies he saw during the weekend. He went through all the gory details of Phantasm, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me and Death Race 2000.:)

#14 of 42 BobO'Link

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Posted December 20 2012 - 02:31 AM

I honestly do not recall the exact year I purchased a VHS recorder but I *do* remember blank tapes running $15-$20 *each* and I'd waited for the prices to come down before I took the plunge. I think the VCR set me back a bit over $100. Being a somewhat young family with small children it was difficult building any type of collection and we tended to focus mainly on movies and a *few* kids shows for those times there wasn't anything on for the kiddies to watch (you know - when there were only 15-20 channels with *no* 24 hour kid oriented stuff). We reasoned that the TV shows would be re-run and there would be no need to keep copies other than for time-shifting purposes. Today I can purchase almost *all* of those movies on DVD but many of the TV shows we watched have still had no DVD release or were butchered (WKRP in particular). I need a WABAC machine so I can return to tell my younger self to ignore the movies... My dad has always been *very* technology oriented and purchased a "portable" video recorder as soon as it became apparent (to him) who the winner was in the format wars. It was one of those with the portapac type recorder connected via umbilical to a large shoulder held camera. It had a separate module (almost the size of the recorder) that sat on the TV so you could connect the recorder pack and use it to record off TV in addition to the camera.

#15 of 42 Richard V

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Posted December 20 2012 - 04:37 AM

Bought my first VCR back in early 80's, a Betamax. After carefully reading expert opinions about visual and sound quality being superior with Beta, decided to go with Beta over VHS, figuring the public would choose quality. The rest is history. When the same choice came about with HD vs Bluray, learned my lesson and waited for a CLEAR winner in the format war before purchasing.
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#16 of 42 Neil Brock

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Posted December 20 2012 - 04:37 AM

Not necessarily, though. In the early days of home video (including the reel-to-reel formats of the 1960s), blank media was so expensive that most people only used it for time-shifting as far as TV shows go, so it's not likely we'd have, say, a complete run of Doctor Who or anything. I'm sure some missing stuff would have survived (as, indeed, some has been recovered from the reel-to-reel formats), but probably not a whole lot more.

Its too bad that those who did have the money to buy those early recorders in the 60s are not really the types of people that are easy to find. Not so much prime time series, as those films are safely tucked away in studio vaults but other types of programming that tended to get erased, like sports, game shows, talk shows, etc. Other than My Living Doll and Don't Call Me Charlie, I can't really think of any filmed series post 1960 that shouldn't exist intact somewhere. The Cartivision system was the first CASSETTE format ever created. Prior formats were of the reel-to-reel variety. And I don't think they came out with color reel-to-reel until some time in the 70s. Fascinating book was written about the whole evolution of home recording called Fast Forward. Good book for anyone interested in the subject. Its unfortunate that many of the early "tapers" put more importance on movie recording rather than TV series. Movies are now so readily available while those short-run TV series from decades ago are buried in the vaults forever. Hindsight is 20-20 but how many movies are there that aren't available somewhere but good luck finding some of those spring tryout series from 30 years ago.

#17 of 42 Jack P

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Posted December 20 2012 - 05:24 AM

True, but again we have to remember what the perception was at the time of what a video player could do for the average individual. Those of us who lived before this era are the last group of people who can remember how rare it was to see a movie after its theatrical run was over. We've forgotten why the network TV debut of a famous movie was "Big Event" television that in the 60s and 70s would draw ratings on par with the World Series and Super Bowl (like the network debut of Gone With The Wind). I think frankly up to 90% of us when we first got a machine was more interested in the potential of being able to see movies at our own leisure for the first time.

#18 of 42 bryan4999

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Posted December 20 2012 - 05:44 AM

My Uncle had a U-Matic machine, which he used for his business. I asked him to please record The Julie Andrews Hour for me in 1973, but he said no, his reason being he didn't want to have to store the cassettes! He did record a few movies from TV broadcast, I remember it being a real treat to watch My Fair Lady at his house (even if it was pan and scan). What a thrill to have a movie available at your disposal at home, a feeling anyone younger than a certain age can't relate to. So even though he did have a few movies, there was no way he was going to "waste" cassettes on a tv series.

#19 of 42 Richard V

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Posted December 20 2012 - 06:04 AM

True, but again we have to remember what the perception was at the time of what a video player could do for the average individual. Those of us who lived before this era are the last group of people who can remember how rare it was to see a movie after its theatrical run was over. We've forgotten why the network TV debut of a famous movie was "Big Event" television that in the 60s and 70s would draw ratings on par with the World Series and Super Bowl (like the network debut of Gone With The Wind). I think frankly up to 90% of us when we first got a machine was more interested in the potential of being able to see movies at our own leisure for the first time.

I clearly remember my family gathering around the TV set to watch "NBC Saturday Night at the Movies". It truly was a big event to get to see Major "Full" (minus of course the edits for commercials) movies in your own home. And yes, I was one of the ones who used my VCR almost exclusively to record movies, never really considering recording any TV shows of the day, or reruns of Classic TV series.
See you at the pah-ty, Richter.

#20 of 42 Rob_Ray

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Posted December 20 2012 - 06:20 AM

I clearly remember my family gathering around the TV set to watch "NBC Saturday Night at the Movies". It truly was a big event to get to see Major "Full" (minus of course the edits for commercials) movies in your own home. And yes, I was one of the ones who used my VCR almost exclusively to record movies, never really considering recording any TV shows of the day, or reruns of Classic TV series.

Yes! I remember the announcer of NBC Saturday Night at the Movies was named Don Rickles and I recall thinking that he didn't sound anything like the comedian by that name. I remember watching the network premieres of several Paramount titles like "Sabrina" while NBC's annual showing of "White Christmas" was a major event for us. I remember as late as the mid-sixties, ABC was touting the network premieres of several prestige 1940s titles such as "The Song of Bernadette" and "Going My Way" as well as several of the 1950s Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Watching movies anytime you wanted was so incredible. I got my first VCR in a 1980 Christmas sale and the very first things I ever recorded were unedited syndicated airings of Psycho, The Bridge on the River Kwai and a yuletide screening of Meet Me in St. Louis. It wasn't until I started taping Cheers for time-shifting purposes a few years later that I seriously began saving TV series episodes.




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