Tagged: 1980s

Formats current at any point during the years 1980-1989

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.


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.


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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8-inch hard disk drive (1979 – late 1980s)

The 8-inch hard disk drive was a magnetic storage device mainly used in minicomputers, and was first introduced in 1979 eventually replacing the 14-inch disk pack and the earlier 14-inch ‘Winchester’ sealed disk drives.

The first 8-inch drive was the IBM ‘Piccolo’ drive, using six 8-inch platters and offering 65 MB of storage in a sealed unit to reduce the possibility of dust contamination. The smaller size also meant the drive didn’t need to be a standalone unit.

8-inch drives were produced from 1979 by a number of different manufacturers, but in 1980 Seagate introduced the 5.25-inch hard disk drive aimed at the microcomputer market, and it was the 5.25-inch hard disk drive that was introduced in the IBM PC-XT in 1983.

However, 8-inch hard disk drives continued to be used in minicomputers for some years.

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5.25-inch ‘flippy’ disk (1976 – mid 1980s)

Flippy disk was a nickname given to single-sided floppy disks that had a second write-enabled notch cut into the sleeve so that the second side could be written to by a single-sided disk drive. Generally, these were 5.25-inch minifloppy disks, but 8-inch floppy disks could be modified in the same way, and this was possible because most of the openings on the sleeve of the disk were duplicated on both sides. It was a way of doubling the capacity of a floppy disk at a time when disks were expensive, although of course they had to be removed from the drive and turned over to access the extra capacity.

When the 5.25-inch minifloppy disk was introduced in 1976, all drives were single-sided. Double-sided drives were introduced in 1978, but suffered from early reliability problems. It wasn’t until 1982 that double-sided drives were supported by IBM PC-DOS in version 1.1. Drives such as Apple’s Disk II and the Commodore 1541 remained single-sided.

The second write-enabled notch could be made by hand, or special ‘disk doubler’ rectangular hold puncher could be bought to do the job. Flippy disks were also sold ready-made, and software was distributed on flippy disks that might have different programs on each side, or the same program but for different operating systems. Flippy disks sold for use in double-sided drives needed to have two index holes on either side of the hub hole.

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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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