Tagged: 1970s

Formats current at any point during the years 1970-1979

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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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

Luminous vinyl record (1978 – )

A small number of phonograph records have been pressed on luminous vinyl, two of the first being the 12-inch single version of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’, and the Penetration album ‘Moving Targets’, both in 1978. Since then, a small number of releases have been made on luminous vinyl.

In normal light, the records look like standard coloured vinyl (usually white in colour, but some other colours have also been used such as yellow for Kraftwerk’s 1981 7-inch single of ‘Pocket Calculator’) but give off a phosphorescent glow in darkness. They glow brighter after being exposed to bright light for a while.

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dbx disc (1979 – 1982)

dbx was a noise-reduction system that was employed on a number of 12-inch LPs in the late 1970s and early 1980s..

The dbx system was premiered in 1973 and a promotional disc produced, but no record companies were interested. It wasn’t until 1979 that BSR, a UK producer of turntables, acquired the dbx company and persuaded several record companies to begin producing discs using dbx Type II encoding.

dbx used linear decibel compounding to compress the signal when recording, and expand it on playback. It meant that surface noise was almost completely eliminated, and the dynamic range of vinyl records could be greatly increased. In addition, dbx releases were made on heavy virgin vinyl and produced from the original master tapes. However, playing back dbx discs required a decoder, and without one playback sounded poor. This was one of the reasons it failed in the marketplace.

With a dbx encoder, users could also record onto tape with dbx noise reduction, and playback from dbx encoded tape recordings, but by this time, Dolby B was already widespread as a noise reduction system for tape.

It appears that less than 200 titles were made available, and no new releases appear to have been made after 1982.

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Memocord (1965 – mid 1970s)

Memocord was a line of portable tape recorders for voice recording and dictation, introduced by the German Assmann company around 1965. The recorders and cassettes were produced in Austria by the Stuzzi company that had previously used the Memocord name for their own portable recorders using small open reels of tape.

The cassettes for the Assmann Memocord look a little like Compact Cassettes and consist of two reels in a clear housing so the amount of tape remaining can be seen. The cassettes protrude from the recorder, and this is so that on most (but not all models) they can be used to control the recorder; by pressing one end of the cassette, it plays, and by pressing the other end, the tape is rewound. This means most models of recorder only had one tape control button, and this is for recording. It also meant that there are some differences in shape between cassettes as the protruding end does not need to be the same.

Up to 90 minutes could be recorded onto a Memocord cassette.

There were several models of Assmann Memocord, and they appear to have been made until around the mid-1970s.

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3M Cantata 700 (1965 – 1990s)

The 3M Cantata 700 was a background music system introduced by 3M in 1965.

The tape cartridge was the largest ever available and consisted of two 8-inch open reels of ¼-inch mono tape stacked on top of each other. Each cartridge could hold up to 700 songs, hence the name of the system.

The 3M Cantata system could be used for locations such as shops, offices and restaurants, and the pre-recorded music was licensed for public performance (it wasn’t possible for the user to record onto the system). It was used into the early 1990s.

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Show’N Tell (1964 – 1980s)

The Show’N Tell was a combination record player and filmstrip viewer for children.

A 7-inch 33⅓rpm record was played on the record player that sat on top of the Show’N Tell player, while images from a strip of 16mm colour film in a rigid plastic holder were shown on the viewing screen at the front. There were 15 images in total on the filmstrip, and the programme lasted for around 4 minutes, with the images automatically advancing as the record played.

The record and filmstrip sets were called Picturesound programmes, and many different programmes were licensed for the Show’N Tell system. By 1965, 140 programmes were available.

General Electric manufactured the Show’N Tell from 1964 until the 1970s, and then CBS Toys manufactured it from the 1970s to the 1980s. The player was redesigned and CBS Toys sold it as the ‘Show ‘n Tell Phono-Viewer’. Picturesound programmes were released under the ‘Child Guidance’ and ‘Gabriel’ labels. The redesigned model could still play ordinary records, but only had two speeds (33⅓, or 45rpm) as opposed to the older version’s four speeds (16, 33⅓, 45, and 78rpm).

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Movie Viewer (1971 – 1985, 2014 – )

The Movie Viewer was a children’s toy for viewing Super 8 film clips. Originally introduced in 1971 by Disney, it was redesigned and rebranded as the Fisher Price Movie Viewer in 1973 but was also sold under various brand names over its lifetime including Action Films, Fisher Price, Corgi/Mettoy, Mothercare, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross, Disney, Mupi and Bandai.

The cartridges contained a loop of colour Super 8 film (without sound) so no rewinding was necessary, and the Movie Viewer was hand-cranked allowing the user to rewind the film, or play it faster or slower. A small window in the side of the Movie Viewer let in light, and no batteries were required.

A large selection of cartridge titles were available, including clips from Disney, Warner Brothers, Peanuts, and Sesame Street.

In 1978, Fisher Price introduced a Theater Viewer with a backlit screen so the film could be seen by several people.

The Movie Viewer was a popular toy and continued to be made until 1985. It was relaunched in 2014 by Fisher Price with a choice of three films (old cartridges are still compatible).

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VX (1975 – 1977)

VX was an early analogue video cassette format aimed at the consumer market. It was launched by Matsushita in Japan in 1975, and was also sold in the US under the Quasar brand. The only machine using the VX format in the US was the VR-1000, marketed under the name ‘The Great Time Machine’ as it could be programmed to record at specific times. In Japan, only two models of video recorder were made.

The tape in a VX cassette was ½-inch wide, and was wound on two coaxial reels (like the VCR and Cartrivision formats). The tape was pre-formed in a loop to go around the video head, which was inserted into the cassette after a protective plug was removed by the machine. The video head itself could be unscrewed and removed for cleaning or replacement.

Tape lengths of up to two hours (120 minutes, or 1200 feet) were available, but the cassettes were much larger than cassettes for the Betamax or VHS systems that pulled the tape out of the cassette to loop around the video head.

Matsushita later went on to support JVC in its introduction of VHS and by 1977 had started producing VHS video recorders.

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SQ Quadraphonic (1971 – 1979)

SQ Quadraphonic (from ‘Stereo Quadraphonic’) was a system for providing quadraphonic sound from four speakers on vinyl records. It was introduced by CBS Records in 1971, and was adopted by a number of other record companies including EMI and Sony.

It was a matrix format, so the four channels were encoded into the stereo grooves of a 12-inch LP and then decoded back to four channels. As the grooves were slightly broader than a standard LP, playing time on an SQ record was reduced.

Of the different quadraphonic systems for vinyl, SQ has the largest discography and this was partly because SQ records were fully compatible with stereo equipment. Some early Compact Discs still used the SQ mix.

Consumers needed to buy an SQ decoder to take advantage of quadraphonic sound, but early versions provided poor separation. The sound separation of the SQ system was greatly improved by the introduction of SQ Full Logic decoding in 1975, but by this time all quadraphonic systems were declining in popularity and by the end of the 1970s, virtually no SQ Quadraphonic LPs were being released.

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