Tagged: 1980s

Formats current at any point during the years 1980-1989

Open reel instrumentation and data logging tape (1949 – 2000s)

Magnetic tape was first used for data logging and instrumentation recording in 1949, when Jack Mullins installed modified Ampex Model 300s at Point Mugu Naval Air Station and at Edwards Air Force Base, both in southern California.

Tape has been heavily used since then for military, industrial, government and research applications. The Inter-Range Instrumentation Group (IRIG) set the standards for instrumentation tape recorders.

Instrumentation recorders were built to much more stringent standards than other tape recorders, and recorders that used direct, FM and PCM recording have been available.

On ¼-inch wide tape, there are typically 4 tracks, whereas on ½-inch tape there were 7, or sometimes even 14, tracks. On 1-inch tape, there were 14 or 28 tracks. Tape is usually wound on the reel with the recording surface facing towards the hub (the opposite of audio tape). Metal NAB reels were often used, for reels between 10.5 and 16-inches, but 7-inch plastic reels with cine spindle hubs have also been used.

Instrumentation recorders also used tape in cassette form, including systems that recorded onto S-VHS tape, and the Digital Instrumentation Recorder from Sony that used the SD1 cassette.

Instrumentation and data logging systems now use hard disks or flash memory for storage.

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White label vinyl record (1948 – )

White label vinyl records are generally 12-inch LPs, or 7-inch singles and come with a plain centre label (usually white) and are in plain packaging. The centre label might have handwritten details of the artist and title, or may be rubber stamped, or have a sticker applied.

Some white label records are test pressings made by the pressing plant, usually in quantities of 5 or less,  and then listened to to check the sound quality before pressing larger runs.

Some white label records are produced for promotional purposes, including advance copies sent to retailers or to DJs. Sometimes white labels are used to conceal artist identities, so the record is listened to without prejudice. Dance music producers might produce white label copies to play in dance clubs to gauge crowd response.

Other white label records are unofficial or partially unofficial releases, for example if a remix was made without the consent of the artist or label.

Generally, white label records are not distributed to the general public.

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3.25-inch floppy disk (1983 – mid-1980s)

The 3.25-inch disk was a floppy disk introduced in 1983 for use in the Tabor TC 500 Drivette disk drive. It was a double-sided disk, with an unformatted capacity of 500 KB.

It was similar in design to the 5.25-inch minifloppy disk, and in fact the drive could replace the 5.25-inch disk drive in a PC using the same cable. In addition to the Tabor Drivette, there was a prototype 3.25-inch disk drive system for the Coleco Adam computer (that at that time was using High Speed Digital Data Pack tape drives) and a 3.25-inch drive was used in the rare Seequa Chameleon 325 computer.

Producers of the disks included Tabor, Dysan, and 3M. However, Dysan seems to have been the main producer of disks, which it labelled as the ‘Flex Diskette’, since like the 5.25-inch disk, the disk’s envelope was flexible.

The 3.25-inch disk came about at a time when there were a number of competing designs of microfloppy disk, such as the 3.5-inch microfloppy and the 3-inch Compact Floppy, and it doesn’t seem to have lasted very long in the marketplace.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Font Cartridge (1984 – 1990)

Hewlett-Packard introduced font cartridges in 1984 for its new range of LaserJet printers and the first series of font cartridges were designed for the original LaserJet, the LaserJet Plus and the LaserJet II series.

The cartridges contained a small selection of bitmapped fonts in ROM, and were numbered 92286A to 92286Z. Each cartridge was designed with a specific purpose in mind (for example, tax returns, presentations, word processing, barcodes etc.) and ranged in price from $150-$330 each. The cartridges supplemented the small range of built-in fonts and helped keep the cost of the printer down by reducing the amount of built-in memory required. Hewlett-Packard referred to the cartridges as ‘hard fonts’ as they were contained in hardware, as opposed to ‘soft’ fonts that were loaded onto the computer from floppy disk (Hewlett-Packard supplied soft fonts on a choice of 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch disk) and then downloaded to the printer’s memory as required. Early LaserJet printers could use hard or soft fonts, but at first more fonts were available on cartridges and they didn’t use the printer’s limited memory.

Although Hewlett-Packard did release some font cartridges for later LaserJet models, software fonts eventually won out as they were more flexible in their use (many fonts could be used in one document), they didn’t need to be contained in expensive cartridges, memory considerations became less important, and Microsoft began bundling fonts with the Windows operating system.

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2-inch floppy disk (LT-1) (1989 – early 1990s)

The 2-inch LT-1 disc was introduced in 1989 for use in the Zenith Minisport notebook computer, the only device that used it. Although very similar to the 2-inch Video Floppy, the two discs are not interchangeable.

The Zenith Minisport was a very lightweight laptop, with good battery life and DOS 3.3 built into ROM for fast booting. It came with 1 or 2 MB of RAM, and except for the HD version did not have a hard drive.

The LT-1 discs, which were made by Fujifilm, had a capacity of 793 KB, similar to the double-sided, double-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk, but a lot less than the high-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk that was becoming the industry standard. Because the LT-1 discs were only used in one model of computer, they were more expensive than other disc designs, and there was no way to read the discs on other devices.

To get around the problem of file transfer due to the unusual disc design, an external 3.5-inch microfloppy disk drive was available, and the Minisport could also transfer files via serial cable to another PC using a program called FastLynx.

The Minisport only seems to have been produced for a couple of years.

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Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

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Metal tape Microcassette (1981 – mid-1980s)

The Microcassette was introduced in 1969 by Olympus for dictation purposes, but in 1981 and 1982 several devices were introduced that used the Microcassette for music recording and playback.

Several personal stereo devices, similar to the Sony Walkman were introduced, such as the Olympus SR-11, and there were also several Microcassette decks for Hi-Fi separates systems from brands such as JVC, Sanyo, Technics and Sony.

The Microcassette for music was a little different to the standard Microcassette and used metal tape (coated with pure metal particles rather than oxide) which had been introduced for the Compact Cassette in 1979 as this offered higher sound quality. Many of the new Microcassette music devices offered Dolby noise reduction, and of course this version of the Microcassette offered stereo sound.

A few pre-recorded tapes were released (mostly in Japan), but the format failed to take off and seems to have disappeared fairly quickly. Even at the time the tapes had limited availability and were expensive, and it’s now hard to find original metal tape Microcassettes.

Despite being used for music playback in its metal-tape form, the cassette seen in the 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the similar Mini-Cassette format and not a Microcassette.

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DASH (Digital Audio Stationary Head) (1982 – mid-1990s)

Sony introduced the DASH (Digital Audio Stationary Head) in 1982 for use in professional recording studios. The DASH system could record two-channel audio on ¼-inch tape, or 24 or 48 tracks onto ½-inch tape, and DASH recorders were produced by Sony, Studer and TASCAM.

The tape itself looked identical to standard NAB open reel analogue tape, but tape for use in DASH and the competing (and incompatible) ProDigi format systems used metal-particle tape which was not suitable for use in analogue systems due to the faster wear on the heads. Several companies produced open reel metal-particle tape for digital audio systems, and some examples included 3M Scotch 275, Ampex 467, EMTEC 931 and Sony own-brand tape. Metal-particle tape was even more expensive than oxide-based tape for analogue systems.

Unlike some other digital audio recording systems using tape such as DAT or U-Matic which used helical scanning, the DASH and ProDigi systems used a stationary recording head.

The audio was encoded as PCM, and included error correction, and all DASH recorders were capable of using 16-bit resolution with a 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rate, with a couple of models capable of 24-bit 48 kHz operation.

DASH and ProDigi were the two main open-reel digital audio recording systems in use from the early-1980s to the mid-1990s, but eventually the falling price of hard-disk space, as well as more compact systems such as ADAT, made them less viable.

Although DASH was a digital system, it still had the disadvantage of having to wind through the tape to find a particular point, and wear could still be a problem. Poorly maintained machines or tape, dust, or fingerprints could render tapes unusable despite the error correction system.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

LP (Long Play) 12 inch record (1948 – )

The LP (Long Play) record is an audio format for phonograph records, introduced by Columbia Records in 1948 and still in use today.

LP records are made of vinyl (either virgin or recycled) and together with a playing speed of 33⅓ rpm and the use of microgrooves, allow for a playing time of around 45 minutes. Previously, 78 rpm records had a playing time of just around 3-4 minutes per side, so an ‘album’ of records was sold as a set, and this name continued to describe a collection of songs on a single disc.

Each side of an LP contains a single continuous groove, with an average length of 460 m.

LP records are generally 12 inches in diameter, but 10 inch LPs have also been produced at different times. The amount of vinyl in an LP is generally 130 g, but some records were produced with less (sometimes as little as 90 g). Modern high-fidelity LPs tend to use more, such as 180 g. Generally LPs are pressed on black vinyl, but coloured vinyl and picture discs (with a card sandwiched between two clear sides of vinyl) have been produced, as have shaped vinyl and even neon vinyl.

By as early as 1952, LPs represented 16.7% of unit sales, rising to 24.4% in 1958 (by then, most of the remainder was 45 rpm singles, 78 rpm only representing 2.1%).

Stereo sound was introduced in 1958, and quadraphonic records were sold in the 1970s for a time.

The LP had no serious competitors for long-playing recordings until the 1970s when the Compact Cassette improved in quality, and then in the 1980s with the introduction of the Compact Disc. LPs ceased to be a mainstream format in the early 1990s, but continue to be produced in small but increasing numbers.

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35mm film (1892 – )

35mm film was the most common film gauge for cinematography, and was also used in still photography (in the form of 135 film).

The name derives from the width of the film strip. When used for motion pictures, the image is across the film and each frame usually has four perforations giving 16 frames per foot, whereas when used for photography the image is lengthways along the film and each frame uses eight perforations. In conventional motion picture film, the image is 22 x 16mm (known as the ‘Academy ratio’). The shape and frequency of the perforations differed in the early years.

The 35mm format was introduced in 1892, soon after the introduction of transparent flexible film in 1889,  at a time when a large range of different film gauges were in use. By 1909 it became accepted as the international standard gauge and remained so until largely replaced by digital cinematography. Although other gauges have been used for cinematography, 35mm remained the most popular with professional film makers as it provided a good trade-off between cost and image quality.

Until the 1950s, 35mm film was made of cellulose nitrate which was highly inflammable and difficult to extinguish once alight. It was replaced with ‘safety film’ (cellulose triacetate). From the 1990s, film stock was made with a synthetic polyester safety base.

Sound was introduced around 1926, with Warner Bros. using synchronised phonograph discs. Later sound-on-film systems include optical analogue, optical digital, and magnetic strips. DTS soundtracks use a timecode printed on the film to synchronise with Compact Discs.

Between 2005 and 2015, most cinemas rapidly converted to digital projection, and in 2014 Paramount Pictures announced that it would no longer supply 35mm prints of movies in the US. Whilst 35mm film is still in use for both shooting and showing movies, it is rapidly becoming a niche format.

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