Category: Obsolete

Refers to formats not in widespread use either because the media or the systems using the media are not produced. The date when a format becomes obsolete is often difficult to determine because it may continue to be used for many years after being discontinued, or may become a niche format used by a few.

Bee Card (1985 – 1986)

The Bee Card was a ROM card of roughly credit card size, developed by Hudson Soft as a lower cost way of distributing games for use with the MSX home computer architecture. The MSX standard was developed by Microsoft and had been around since 1983. MSX machines had one or two ROM cartridge slots, and a Bee Card could be used in one of these by using a BeePack adapter.

The design of the Bee Card was later adapted to become the HuCard for use in the NEC TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine. In this form, it was slightly thicker and had 38 pins as opposed the 32 pins of the Bee Card. The Bee Card had a maximum capacity of 32 KB.

Only 11 titles were released on Bee Card for MSX systems, some by Hudson Soft themselves along with some from other software developers, and the Bee Card was only produced until 1986.

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S-VHS-C (1987 – early 2000s)

S-VHS-C (Super VHS Compact) was the compact version of S-VHS tape for use in analogue consumer camcorders.

It was introduced by JVC in 1987, and offered a horizontal resolution of about 400 lines over VHS-C‘s 240 lines, on tapes that could hold 30 or 45 minutes at standard speed.

The tapes could be placed in an adaptor and played back in an S-VHS deck, but it needed to be an S-VHS adaptor as the adaptor for VHS-C cassettes was differently notched to identify the tape as S-VHS. S-VHS-C tapes cannot be played back in a normal VHS machine even with an adaptor.

S-VHS-C competed with Hi8, which offered a comparable level of quality, but few S-VHS-C camcorder models were available.

No digital version was introduced (unlike full-size VHS with its D-VHS variant, and Hi8 with Digital8) and it was made obsolete by smaller digital formats like MiniDV, and eventually hard-drive recorders.

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SuperBeta (1985 – 1988)

SuperBeta (sometimes called High Band) was a development of the consumer Betamax video cassette format, and was introduced by Sony in 1985. A few other manufacturers also made SuperBeta machines, including NEC, Sanyo and Radio Shack.

SuperBeta increased the horizonal resolution from 240 to 290 lines (a big improvement, but still lower resolution than LaserDisc). In addition, some machines could record at a faster tape speed known as Beta-Is (4cm per second), the same speed as the original Beta-I mode on the first Betamax machines, for even higher quality.

Any Betamax tape could be used on a SuperBeta machine, but high quality tapes such as Sony’s PRO-X tapes were available to take full advantage of the SuperBeta’s higher quality in Super Beta Pro mode. Tapes recorded on a SuperBeta machine could be played without any problems in Beta Hi-Fi machines, but earlier Betamax VCRs showed some highlight streaking. No SuperBeta pre-recorded cassettes appear to have been released.

Shortly afterwards, JVC countered with the introduction of VHS HQ with a small increase in video quality, and in 1987 introduced the even higher-quality S-VHS.

By 1986, the market share of Betamax was down to 7.5% in the UK, and only one SuperBeta machine was marketed in the UK (the SL-HF950, which had the ‘linear skate’ cassette loading system). By 1988 Sony recognised the video format war was over and began producing VHS video recorders, marking the end of Betamax in the UK and Europe. However, Betamax still had it supporters and Sony continued to produce Betamax recorders in the US until 1993, and in Japan until 2002. In 2016, Sony ceased production of Betamax tapes.

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Polaroid i-Zone (1999 – 2006)

The i-Zone was a camera and instant film system launched by Polaroid in 1999.

The cameras were compact and fairly basic with fixed-focus lenses, a manually selectable aperture for three different light conditions, and a built-in flash. They were marketed to the younger market, so the cameras were often colourful and special editions were produced such as Barbie and Hello Kitty! Britney Spears was also used to market them.

The film produced small images of about 24x36mm (roughly the size of a 35mm negative) and needed to be manually pulled from the camera. It was an integral instant film (like SX-70 or 600 film) so didn’t need to be peeled apart, but unlike SX-70 or 600 film, there was no need for a battery to be contained in the film pack.

The image came out on a long tab of decorated paper, and in one version of the film the images were sticky-backed so they could be used as sticker. The film tabs were hand folded in a factory in Mexico.

The i-Zone system was briefly popular, but it was discontinued in 2006. Unlike some other types of Polaroid film, i-Zone film is not being produced by Polaroid Originals (previously known as Impossible Project).

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Yamaha Music Cartridge (1995 – late 1990s)

Yamaha introduced Music Cartridges in 1995 for use in some of its PSR range of entry-level and mid-range keyboards. These are not to be confused with an earlier Music Cartridge format from Yamaha that was used on its TYU-30 model in 1986.

The Yamaha Music Cartridge for PSR models were ROM cartridges containing either fully-arranged songs, or additional styles to add to the keyboard’s library, and were inserted into a slot on top of the keyboard. Six models of keyboard were able to accept Music Cartridges – PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520 and PSR-620, launched in 1995, and the PSR-330 and PSR-530, launched in 1997.

Later models of Yamaha keyboard used 3.5-inch floppy disks.

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EMI Voice Letter (1960s)

The EMI Voice Letter was a 3-inch reel of ¼-inch magnetic recording tape that could be recorded and played back on a standard open reel tape recorder. Once recorded, the reel would be placed back in its packaging which had space on it to write an address and to attach postage stamps to send it to someone. The tape could record 10 minutes when run at 3¾-inches per second.

Similar reels marketed for keeping in touch by posting voice recordings were available around the same time, such as the Mastertape Voice Letter and the Scotch One Five Special. The Smith Corona Mail Call Letterpack of the late 1960s was a similar concept.

The EMI Voice Letter does not seem to have become very popular, and would probably have been superseded by smaller and more convenient products like the Compact Cassette.

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Little LP (1961 – 1975)

The Little LP (also known as a Jukebox EP) was a 7-inch vinyl record with up to three songs on each side, that played at 33 ⅓ rpm in stereo, and had a small centre hole. They were first introduced by Cadence Records in late 1961, though the Cadence version was in mono and was not designed for jukeboxes.

The Little LP was not successful in the retail market, but it was picked up by Seeburg for use in their new jukebox, introduced in September 1962. The Seeburg version of the Little LP was in stereo, came with title strips, and had a colour cover for display in the jukebox. A number of record companies signed up, mostly easy listening and classical labels, and by 1963 there were 233 titles available with over 1,000 by 1966. Little LPs were also made for other jukebox manufacturers such as Wurlitzer and ATI.

Little LPs were essentially cut-down versions of the full 12-inch LP, and shared the same artwork. Record companies saw the potential of promoting the full LP version by having a selection of tracks available to hear, and the cover on display, in places where adult listeners gathered.

However by 1969, output of Little LPs had dropped sharply. A couple of small manufacturers revived the format in the early 1970s, but only a few titles per year were released in the period 1970-1975. Seeburg introduced new jukeboxes that didn’t play Little LPs in 1971, and the introduction of quadraphonic Little LPs didn’t make any difference as there were very few quadraphonic jukeboxes to play them on.

There were no new titles on the Little LP format for jukeboxes in 1976, but a few Little LPs have been released for the retail market as specialty items since then.

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1.8-inch hard disk drive (1991 – 2014)

The 1.8-inch hard disk drive was introduced by Integral Peripherals in 1991, and had up to two platters for a maximum storage capacity of 320 GB on the last model introduced by Toshiba in 2009.

The 1.8-inch form factor of hard drive was not popular at first, despite being the same form factor as the PCMCIA card, making it suitable for use as removable storage on laptops with a PCMCIA slot.

It eventually came to be used for internal storage in compact laptops such as netbooks, and in the original version of the Apple iPod, later known as the iPad Classic, which was discontinued in 2014.

The 1.8-inch hard disk drive is no longer produced, having been replaced in the kind of devices that would have once used it by solid-state drives.

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Polaroid Polavision (1977 – 1979)

Polavision was a home movie film system launched by Polaroid in 1977. What set it apart from other home movie formats like Super 8 was that Polavision offered quick developing at home in just a few minutes.

The film was contained in a cartridge for easy loading in the handheld camera, and this had two reels for the film as well as a small lens and prism for projection as the film remained in the cartridge when projected. Unfortunately, the cartridge only held enough film for around two and a half minutes of recording.

The film was in colour (using the additive process), but there was no sound, and the images were criticised for being murky. The film was not very sensitive, and required a lot of light to film successfully.

Developing and projecting the film required the Polavision tabletop projector that projected the images onto a translucent screen. Developed film however can be extracted from the cartridge for use on a Super 8 projector.

The Polavision system was a commercial failure and lost Polaroid a considerable amount of money. As well as having to compete with Super 8, Betamax and VHS home video cameras were becoming available (though at this stage still very expensive and requiring a separate portable recorder).

It was withdrawn in 1979.

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Polaroid SX-70 film (1972 – early 1980s)

The Polaroid SX-70 film pack was not the first instant film produced by Polaroid, but it was the first where the print ejected automatically and didn’t need to be peeled apart. The SX-70 film pack offered 10 exposures, and incorporated a flat ‘PolaPulse’ power pack (with exposed contacts on the rear of the film pack) so the camera itself didn’t need a battery. SX-70 film produces square images, but there is a longer border at the bottom edge that contains the chemical ‘pod’ on the rear.

SX-70 film was introduced for the new SX-70 camera series that was introduced in 1972, and despite most models being SLR cameras, they could be folded up for ease of storage. Focusing was initially manual, but the Sonar OneStep version introduced in 1978 offered a sonar autofocus system.

Polaroid also produced a number of non-folding instant cameras that used a lot of the technology of the SX-70 series, such as the Model 1000 OneStep, Presto and The Button.

SX-70 film was developed into the SX-70 Time-Zero Supercolor film in 1980, and this allowed an even shorter development time, and offered brighter colours.

Although SX-70 film was produced by Polaroid until 2005, the SX-70 camera series that used the film had been discontinued in the early 1980s, and later models in the SX-70 series such as the 680 and 690 used the later 600 film packs.

SX-70 film used a gelatin-based emulsion that stays soft for several days as water vapour cannot pass through the Mylar covering. This allowed the image to be manipulated, and is the effect used, for instance, on the cover of Peter Gabriel’s 1980 album that is sometimes referred to as ‘Melt’ due to the cover image. Later Polaroid films such as 600 and Spectra can’t be manipulated in this way.

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