Extended Definition Beta (1988 – early 1990s)

ED (Extended Definition) Beta was introduced in 1988 and was the last variation of the Betamax format that Sony created for the consumer market (the Betacam family of formats for professional use went on to have much greater success). It was announced shortly after JVC ‘s rival S-VHS format.

ED Beta offered 500 lines of resolution (compared to S-VHS and LaserDisc‘s 420 lines) by using special metal formulation tape and some tape transport improvements. Because of its special formulation, ED-Metal tape was expensive, as were the machines.

Two ED Beta decks and a camcorder were produced for the US market, but Betamax had already lost the format war to VHS and ED Beta was discontinued in the US market after just a couple of years. It’s not clear when it was discontinued in Japan, where Betamax machines were still produced until 2002.

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Gold CD-R (1996 – )

Gold CD-Rs (sometimes called archival CD-Rs) are intended to have a much longer life than standard CD-Rs. The main difference is that these CD-Rs use gold as the reflective layer to prevent oxidation (also known as laser rot), and they generally also use higher-quality dyes (preferably phthalocyanine). Being write-once also means the data cannot be accidentally overwritten.

Gold CD-Rs were introduced by MAM-A (Mitsui Advanced Media – America) around 1996.

Some gold CD-Rs suggest that they can offer data storage for to 300 years. Unfortunately there is no way to tell if this will be the case, and the future obsolescence of optical drives means they still should not be relied upon for long-term data storage.

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Preservation / Migration

DTS 5.1 Music Disc (1997 – early 2000s)

The DTS 5.1 Music Disc was a Compact Disc format offering surround sound audio, usually in the 5.1 configuration. The discs conformed to Red Book standard, so could be played in a standard CD player, but without the use of a DTS decoder all that would be heard is white noise. The potential confusion between DTS 5.1 Music Discs and standard Compact Discs meant some retailers were reluctant to stock them. There is some compression applied to the audio, so sound quality is arguably slightly lower than a standard CD.

Formats such as DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD, launched a few years later, could also offer surround sound and meant an end to the DTS 5.1 Music Disc, though several hundred titles were released on the format.

DTS surround sound technology is also used in movie theatres, on DVD-Video and on Blu-ray. It was also used on a small number of LaserDiscs.

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QSound Compact Disc (1991 – 2001)

QSound is an audio processing system introduced by QSound Labs. It was applied at the sound mixing stage and attempts to produce a surround sound effect from a stereophonic source. It was used on around 65 Compact Disc albums from 1991 to around 2001, which display the QSound logo. The first album to use QSound was Madonna’s ‘The Immaculate Collection’ and all the tracks were either re-mixed or mixed using the system.

No additional equipment was necessary to play a QSound Compact Disc, and the discs comply fully with Red Book standards.

As well as Compact Disc albums, the QSound technology was also applied to computer game audio, television programmes and film soundtracks.

On mono devices, music mixed using the QSound system can have elements missing.

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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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