Tagged: 1990s

Formats current at any point during the years 1990-1999

Stereophonic LP (Long Play) 12 inch record (1957 – )

The current system for creating stereophonic (2 channel) phonograph discs date back to 1933 when Alan Blumlein, a senior sound engineer at EMI in London, demonstrated a single-groove system in which the stylus moves both horizontally and vertically.

When the 12-inch Long Play record was launched in 1948, it was initially monophonic, and it wasn’t until 1957 that stereophonic LPs were released, by now using a refined version of the EMI system developed by Westrex (a division of Western Electric) called Westrex 45/45 in which each channel drives the cutting head at a 45 degree angle to the vertical.

In late 1957, Audio Fidelity Records and Bel Canto in the US released demonstration stereo LPs, with the the Bel Canto release on multicoloured vinyl. The first mass-produced stereophonic LPs were released in early 1958.

Mono LPs continued to be released alongside stereo LPs for the next ten years or so with major labels ceasing production in 1968, but 7-inch singles continued to be mono for longer, into the 1970s in some cases.

Stereo records produced using the Westrex system played well on a mono record player, and mono records could be played on a stereo system.

In the 1970s, quadraphonic (4 channel) LPs were produced, but were not a great success partly because there were several competing and incompatible systems.

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U-matic SP (1986 – late 1990s)

U-matic SP (Superior Performance) was a variant of the U-matic video cassette format, and was introduced by Sony in 1986. It used chrome tape and offered an improvement in performance over previous generations of U-matic (low-band and high-band) with a a horizontal resolution of 330 lines, a better signal to noise ratio, and Dolby C noise reduction.

Like previous generations of U-matic, the SP variant was analogue and used ¾-inch tape. SP tapes can be played on a standard U-matic deck, albeit with a loss in quality.

Two sizes of U-matic SP tape were available, with the smaller one aimed at the electronic news gathering market.

U-matic tape was replaced in broadcast applications by Sony’s own Betacam family of video cassette formats in the 1980s, and for other applications in the 1990s.

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MovieCD (1997 – late 1990s)

MovieCD was a CD-ROM format for video, introduced by Sirius Publishing Inc. in early 1997, that allowed people to view full-length movies on their Windows PC or laptop using a standard CD-ROM drive.

MovieCDs could be played on PCs running Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 without the need for any additional hardware or software, and the PC hardware requirements were fairly modest. The necessary software and the MotionPixels codec were on the discs themselves and installed automatically.

Each disc could hold up to 45 minutes of video, so two or sometimes three discs were necessary for longer films. The resolution was 320×236 pixels, and the format promised ‘near-TV quality’ images (though of course, the format could only be played on a PC – there were no set-top MovieCD players available).

Over 100 titles were available on the MovieCD format including anime, music concerts and feature films. It competed with Video CD and the newly launched DVD-Video, and no version of MovieCD was developed for versions of Windows beyond Windows 95. It was not a commercial success and disappeared after a few years.

Using the discs on a post-Windows 98 system can cause problems with other video and audio software.

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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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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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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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Minimax Compact Disc (1990s – )

Minimax Compact Discs are generally CD singles which consist of a 3-inch playing area (equivalent to the mini CD single) surrounded by an area of translucent plastic (either clear or coloured) to make them full-size Compact Discs. The playable part of the disc conforms to Red Book standards.

On a normal Compact Disc, the reflective layer would continue to the edge of the disc, even if there was not enough music to fill it.

Because of the small playing area, minimax CDs can only hold a limited playing time (about 24 minutes maximum) and so have only been used for music singles or EPs.

They are very uncommon, presumably because of the extra expense in manufacturing them over a standard 5-inch CD single, but have been used for special edition singles, in much the same way as coloured vinyl records. It could be argued that the holographic CD is a form of minimax CD, as it is also formed of a mini CD single inside a larger area of plastic containing the holographic design.

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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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Digital Data Storage (DDS) (1989 – 2007)

Digital Data Storage (DDS) was introduced in 1989, and used a version of Digital Audio Tape (DAT) for storing data.

DDS used helical scanning on magnetic tape, and stored between 1.3 GB in the first generation (DDS-1) and 36 GB uncompressed on the fifth generation (DAT 72) launched in 2003.

During its life, DDS competed against formats such as Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT), VXA, and Travan, and over 18 million DDS drives were sold.

Generally, DDS drives can read and write to media of one or perhaps two previous generations only, so DDS-4 drives cannot read or write from DDS-1 tapes. DDS drives cannot read or write to media from later generations.

Two later generations (DDS-160 and DDS-320) both use 8mm wide tape in a slightly thicker cartridge, whereas the first five generation of DDS used 3.81 mm tape (often labelled as 4mm DDS).

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 3obsolescence 3Whilst DDS drives are still available secondhand, a single drive cannot read more than three generations of DDS.

The earliest tapes are now nearly 30 years old