videotape recorder

The first videotape recorders were developed by Bing Crosby Laboratories, under a research team headed by engineer John Mullin, in 1951. The camera converted the visual information into electrical impulses and saved the digital information onto magnetic tape. Over the following years the video recorder was perfected. By 1956, the VR 1000, invented by Charles Ginsburg and manufactured by the Ampex Corporation, came into common use in the television industry.

Video recording utilized the same principle as audio tape recording [V], storing a varying magnetized line in a track on a plastic tape covered with iron oxide or other magnetic material. However, video recording requires the storage of much more information than audio recording, and the solution was achieved by arranging the video track in diagonal strips across the width of the tape. The recording drum turns at an angle to the wrapping tape, allowing the diagonal striping to record the image data. The sound track is recorded as a separate straight track along one edge of the tape.

Two Japanese firms competed for the world market by introducing videocassette systems. The Sony Betamax standard (or Beta) was first introduced in 1965 and had superior visual quality. However, Matsushita introduced the VHS standard early in the 1970s, and with a larger marketing effort, succeeded in dominating the market. A “Super VHS” system introduced in 1989 improved on the quality of the early VHS system. Although neither system was ideal for permanent recording due to the gradual decay of image quality, the videocassette and home-recording machines changed television viewing habits, as audiences taped sports events and even serial soap operas for replay at more convenient hours. Video rental stores became big business enterprises, at first offering both Beta and VHS formats, but by the 1990s, almost entirely abandoning the Beta format for the more popular VHS.

Following 1959, the development of a solid-state charge-coupled device allowed for miniaturized and much improved video recording, by recording the image in digital form rather than by magnetic alignment of iron oxide.


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