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Videotape turns 60

Richard Kimble

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November 30, 1956…60 Years Ago Today, A Videotape Milestone


On this day in 1956, at Television City, CBS made broadcast history when they achieved the first ever videotape delay of east coast programming.




The show was ‘The Evening News With Douglas Edwards’, and after recording the live feed coming down the network line from New York, the program was played back three hours later for the west coast. In the photo, we see CBS Engineer John Radis at the Ampex VRX-1000 recording the show. On the phone to his right is Jim Morrison. Just in case, a kinescope of the newscast was rolled simultaneously, but fortunately, it was not needed.


This VRX-1000 is one of only 16 hand-built machines Ampex rushed to produce after debuting the VTR eight months before. It would take over a year for CBS New York to get videotape machines due to a huge backlog, even though the networks got priority. In early 1958, 14 VR 1000 went into service as CBS Grand Central. NBC too had the bulk of their machines on the west coast but both CBS and NBC had two VTRs in New York which were mostly used for testing and engineering purposes.


This historic machine was retired in 1978. Early on, it had been fitted with RCA color modules as Ampex and RCA traded technology rights. RCA had developed color recording in 1954 and allowed Ampex to use it if they would allow RCA to use the Qaud recording head.

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And according to legend, we have Bing Crosby to thank for it:



We can also thank Bing for introducing yet another innovation into the world, Eric.


The reasonably undetectable toupee.


(...well, it looked a hell of a lot better than Howard Cosell's ever did anyway, right?!)

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My first introduction to videotape came in an unusual way, back in the 1960's during a football game, it was called Instant Replay.


I saw the first video recorder when in high school around 1972, looked like this one.





Remember when this was considered portable? :lol:


Read the ad.



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Those images bring back memories. I still have a videotape (on reel) from 1974, taken when I was student teaching. At the end of my student teaching, I wanted to play the tape for the class ... but the machine in the school wasn't working. I put the tape away, and pretty much forgot about it. Then, some 13-15 years later, I was working at a university, called their AV department just for the heck of it, and asked if they could transfer the tape to a videocassette. Surprisingly, they still had a machine that could do that. Then, several years ago, I transferred the videocassette to dvd. I suppose in about ten years I'll have to transfer it to another medium.

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