Category: Format

Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer (1984 – late 1980s)

The Talking View-Master Electronic 3-D Viewer was a device for viewing stereoscopic film images with accompanying audio, and was introduced by View-Master International in 1984. It was a development of an earlier Talking View-Master which has been introduced in 1970 by GAF that used a small transparent phonograph disc attached to the View-Master reel.

The new version of the Talking View-Master used a cartridge containing (and protecting) a separate film reel and flexible black phonograph disc. The viewer provided better sound quality by using a sapphire stylus, linear tracking tone arm and microprocessor controlled motor for better speed control. The new version also had volume control, and headphones.

When a cartridge was inserted, a beep sounded until the reel was aligned to picture one, and then the record was started. A beep then sounded for the viewer to advance the reel, and at the end a message plays to remind the viewer to remove the cartridge.

As well as Disney and other cartoons, there were reels for contemporary live action TV programmes such as the A-Team, Fraggle Rock, Knight Rider and Sesame Street, and a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ reel.

Although View-Master International indicated before launch that retailer response was strong, the new Talking View-Master didn’t appear to have lasted very long and less than 45 titles were released.

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MQS (2013 – )

Mastering Quality Sound is a term used by the South Korean company Astell&Kern to describe 24-bit high-resolution audio files that use the FLAC format (a lossless compression format). Astell&Kern sell a range of high-end audio players that support a range of audio file types, including high-resolution FLAC files, and the players themselves incorporate microSD card slots.

Music files can be transferred from a computer to the player using microSD or microSDHC memory cards of up to 32 GB, or connecting via cable, but a small number of pre-recorded albums have been released on microSD cards marketed under the name MQS.

MQS microSD cards contains high-resolution audio files in FLAC format and these can be played back on many devices in addition to Astell&Kern’s players, although additional plugins or apps may sometimes be required on other devices. Astell&Kern products support 24-bit high-resolution audio with a sampling rate of up to 192 kHz (though the music on MQS microSD cards varies from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz depending on the source) and claim that this gives up to 6.5 times the level of detail of a conventional CD-quality audio file.

Pre-recorded music has already been released on microSD cards, both under SanDisk brands such as Gruvi and slotMusic, and also on generic microSD cards. These formats used MP3 files rather than the higher quality FLAC though.

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MPEG IMX (2001 – 2016)

MPEG IMX (also known as D10) was a standard-definition digital video cassette format introduced by Sony in 2001 and was part of the Betacam family of professional video formats. It was priced between Sony’s Betacam SX and the more expensive Digital Betacam, and was intended to compete with the Panasonic DVCPRO 50 system. As the name suggests, MPEG IMX recorded in MPEG video format, in case MPEG-2 using only I-frames and 8 channel audio.

Like other Betacam formats, tape width was ½ inch and cassettes were available in small or large form factors, with the S size holding up to 60 minutes of video, and the L size up to 184 minutes. To distinguish MPEG IMX tapes from other Betacam formats, the shells were coloured green. Metal particle tape was used.

All IMX video recorders could playback Betacam SX tapes, and some could playback Digital Betacam as well as analogue Betacam and Betacam SP tapes, the video from which could be encoded into MPEG-2 format. Only IMX tapes could be used for recording in IMX video recorders.

Like all Betacam formats, no new MPEG IMX video recorders are being made, having been discontinued in 2016.

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Exatron Stringy Floppy (1978 – 1986)

The Exatron String Floppy was introduced in 1978, and was an endless loop tape cartridge system for microcomputers. At the time, floppy disk systems were still expensive, and cassette tapes were very slow. Despite the name, so-called stringy floppy systems are unrelated to floppy disks.

The tape cartridges, called wafers, contained a 1/16-inch loop of mylar-based chrome dioxide tape, in different lengths according to the capacity of the wafer. The smallest wafer contained 5 feet of tape and could hold 4 KB of data, and the longest was 75 foot and, capable of holding 64 KB of data. A 16 KB file took just 24 seconds to load.

The Exatron Stringy Floppy system was most commonly used with the TRS-80 range of computers, and did not require an expansion interface. By 1982, the price has fallen to $99.50. As well as being used to save data, software, including programs and games, was available on Stringy Floppy wafers.

Although popular with TRS-80 owners, the system could be unreliable, and as the price of faster and more reliable floppy disk drives fell they became less attractive. They continued to be advertised until 1986.

Similar stringy floppy tape systems were available during the 1980s, including the Sinclair ZX Microdrive, and the Rotronics Wafadrive.

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Nintendo 3DS (2011 – )

The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game console launched in 2011 as a successor to the Nintendo DS. Its main feature was the ability to display stereoscopic 3D effects on the upper screen without the need for special glasses. Nintendo’s previous attempt at a 3D handheld game console (the Nintendo Virtual Boy) was a commercial failure, and required a special headset to view monochrome 3D effects.

The Nintendo 3DS competes with Sony’s PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Several versions of the 3DS have been introduced since its launch, including the 3DS XL with a much larger screen, an entry level 2DS (without the clamshell form factor or 3D facility), and the ‘new’ 3DS and 3DS XL with a faster processor and other upgrades.

It is backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi, and Game Cards for these consoles will fit into the 3DS. Games for the 3DS are prevented from being inserted into the older DS/DSi by a small lug on the card. 3DS Game Cards can hold between 1 and 4 GB of game data (compared to the DS card which held between 8 and 512 MB).

As well as loading games from ROM cards, the 3DS can connect to the Nintendo eShop to download games. Games, audio and picture files can be stored on a Secure Digital or SDHC card (or microSD on the new 3DS/DS XL)

Despite disappointing early sales, the 3DS family become very successful and as of September 2016 had sold over 61 million units.

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Minifon wire reel (1959 – 1967)

The Minifon name was applied to a range of miniature wire recorders introduced initially by the German company Monske & Co GmbH in 1951, and then produced by Protona GmbH from 1952 until 1967, although they were also sold under the Telefunken, ITT and EMI brands.

The recorders ran on batteries, and could record over 2 hours on a single reel of wire (later models allowed for 5 hours of recording). As the reels turn, the recording/playback head moved up and down so the wire was spooled evenly on each reel.

They were popular for covert recordings, and an accessory microphone that was made to look like a wristwatch was available. Minifon recorders were sold in overseas markets such as the US and UK.

In 1959 the Minifon Ataché was introduced, using a tape cartridge for the first time, but the wire-based recorders continue to be produced until Protona ceased production of all Minifon models in 1967.

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Superbit (2001 – 2007)

Superbit was a variant on standard DVD-Video introduced in 2001 by the Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment division of Sony.

Superbit DVDs used a higher bit rate transfer process to optimise video quality, and always contained both a 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS soundtrack. The actual increase in bit rate varied according to the space available on the disc, and the bit rate of the standard DVD version (which itself could vary). They were compatible with standard DVD players and so could carry the DVD logo. Due to the extra space required for video and audio data, bonus material is kept to a minimum or not included at all, though there were a handful of ‘Superbit Deluxe’ releases which carried the bonus material on a second disk. The menus were different to those on the standard DVD release, and were kept simple to save space.

Fewer than 60 titles were released in Superbit format, and Superbit releases typically only sold 2% of the amount of the standard DVD version.

By 2007, Sony was promoting Blu-ray and the Superbit line was dropped.

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Cabinet card (1863 – early 1920s)

A cabinet card consists of an albumen print (although later cards used matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper) mounted on a standard sized card backing of 4¼  by 6½ inches. Like the earlier carte de visite, the card displayed details of the the photographic studio that took the photograph, either below the below the photograph, on the back of the card, or both.

They were introduced in 1863 by a British photographic studio, Windsor & Bridge, and became widely used for portrait photography (initially, they were intended for landscape photography), superseding the smaller carte de visite. Cabinet cards were placed in albums like the carte de visite, although it was a few years before albums specifically for the larger size of cabinet cards became available, or could be placed on stands or in frames for display (often in parlour cabinets, hence the name). They reached a peak in their popularity in the 1880s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary, but cabinet cards continued to be produced as late as the early 1920s.

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1-inch Type B (1975 – 1980s)

1-inch Type B (also known as B-Format) was an open reel magnetic tape format for professional analogue video recording.

It was introduced by Bosch in 1976 for use in its BCN line of video recorders and although it found success in continental Europe, 1-inch Type C was more successful in the UK and US. Unlike Type C, Type B in its standard form could not perform trick-play operations such as slow-motion or frame step play, due to the way the each field was segmented over 5 or 6 tracks (Type C recorded one frame per helical scan). An expensive digital framestore was needed to perform trick-play operations.

Type B had a standard capacity of 96 minutes on a reel, although later this was increased to 120 minutes. Long play versions eventually became available that could fit up to 6 hours on one reel.

Video quality was excellent, and as well as standard recording/playback machines, portable and random access cart machines were available.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

Sterling Record (1904 – 1908)

Sterling cylinder (with packaging)Sterling Records were black wax moulded phonograph cylinders produced in England, initially in 1904 by the Sterling Record Company, and then from 1905 by the Russell Hunting Record Company.

Up until 1903, the cylinder market in England had been dominated by Edison Bell, whose patents gave them control. Once their patents expired, the market was opened to new competitors such as Sterling Records and Clarion Records.

Like the contemporary Edison Gold Moulded Records, Sterling Records were classed as 2 minute cylinders (100 threads per inch), but were around ¼-inch longer so had a little more capacity.

Sterling Records sold well with the first million cylinders sold in the first 22 weeks of business, and the cylinders were well recorded and made. However, they were discontinued in 1908 when the Russell Hunting Record Company went out of business.

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