The Philips EL 3583 was an office dictation machine that used small cartridges of ⅛-inch tape. It appears to have been introduced around 1963, around the same time that Philips also introduced their Compact Cassette system, and it may have replaced the EL 3581 system.
The threading mechanism was unusual; a supply cartridge and a separate take-up cartridge would be placed in the machine and lever would be depressed causing a latch at the end of the supply cartridge’s tape to be pulled across and to lock into the take-up spool.
Like other dictation machines, the microphone also acted as a small speaker and contained a control to begin recording.
It’s unclear when the system was produced until, but it seems unlikely to be much beyond the early 1970s as Philips own Compact Cassette and mini-cassette designs, as well as other competing cassettes such as the Microcassette were available.
Philips Background Music Services cartridges were based on the Fidelipac B size cartridge and were 4-track mono cartridges for background music systems made by Philips. Being based on the Fidelipac cartridge meant they were endless loop tapes and would simply repeat the music once all four tracks had been played through.
There appear to have been two models of player, the BMS 2500 and the BMS 2600.
The cartridges themselves display a description of the type of music contained on them (for example, ‘music for stylish surroundings’) and are contained in a box that had the return address and space for a stamp on the rear, so the cartridges could be returned to Philips Background Music Services after use.
The system could be used for locations such as shops, offices and restaurants, and the pre-recorded music was licensed for public performance
By 1989 Philips had begun using the CD-BGM format, for example in its BMS 3000 player.
The Philips EL 3581 was an office dictation machine introduced by Philips (known as Norelco in the US) in 1958 and was one of the earliest magnetic tape dictation systems (the Dictaphone Dictet was launched shortly before it). At the time of its introduction, most dictation systems were using discs or belts onto which grooves were pressed, such as the Dictabelt, SoundScriber and Audograph systems.
Although the EL 3581 uses a cartridge so no threading is required, the tape is housed on two separate 3-inch reels with ¼-inch tape and cine spindle holes suitable for domestic open reel tape recorders. Removing a clip from the cartridge shell allows the reels to be removed.
Like some other dictation machines, the microphone also doubles as a speaker, and contains some tape controls. A foot pedal and external speaker were also available.
Philips later introduced the much smaller EL 3583 and Compact Cassette formats in 1963, followed by the mini-cassette in 1967 and it doesn’t appear the EL 3581 was produced for long.
An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.
Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.
Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.
To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.
Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.
Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.
CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.
The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.
The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.
The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.
CD-i Digital Video was a short-lived video disc format introduced by Philips in 1993 that was designed to be played in CD-i players equipped with an optional Digital Video Cartridge. This expansion unit contained a 32 bit RISC processor and 1 MB of RAM to provide MPEG-1 decoding.
CD-i Digital Video followed the Green Book standard for CD-i discs, making it incompatible with the Video CD format introduced shortly afterwards that followed the White Book standard. However, whilst Video CD players could not play CD-i Digital Video, CD-i players with the optional Digital Video Cartridge could play both formats. Some other CD-i discs such as games also made use of the Digital Video Cartridge to play video.
One of the two differences between the formats was the resolution, that was slightly higher on CD-i Digital Video (384×288 instead of 352×288 for Video CD). When a Video CD is played on a CD-i player, slightly larger pixels are displayed to fill the screen.
Only around 20 movies were released on CD-i Digital Video before Philips switched to Video CD for distributing movies in 1994.
Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) was a digital audio recording format using magnetic tape, introduced by Philips and Matsushita in 1992. Pitched as a successor to Philips’ own Compact Cassette and competitor to Sony’s MiniDisc, it never became popular.
It shared the same form factor as compact cassettes, and DCC recorders could play back either type of cassette. This backward compatibility allowed users to adopt digital recording without rendering their existing tape collections obsolete.
As well as home players, portable and in-car players were produced.
Digital Compact Cassette was discontinued in October 1996 after Philips admitted it had achieved poor sales.
CD Video (CDV) was a combined audio and video format introduced in 1987 that combined the technologies of Compact Disc and LaserDisc. The discs were the same size as a Compact Disc, and contained up to 20 minutes worth of audio information (around 4-5 tracks) that could be played on any audio Compact Disc player. They also contained up to 5 minutes of analogue video information, which could be played back on a newer LaserDisc player capable of playing CD Video discs.
CD Video discs have a distinctive gold colour, to differentiate them from regular silver-coloured Compact Discs.
Over 170 CD Video titles were released, but the format met with limited success as a LaserDisc player was required to play the video portion. CD Video disappeared from the the US and European markets in 1990, but continued to be popular in Japan until 1992.
A version of CD Video called Video Single Disc (VSD) was also released, but this only had a LaserDisc analogue video track (occupying the whole of the disc) and no Compact Disc audio tracks.
Video CD (Compact Disc Digital Video or VCD) was a derivative of the Compact Disc, used for playback of video. The standard was created in 1993 by Sony, Philips, Matsushita and JVC, and is referred to as the White Book standard.
Like audio Compact Disc, it uses 120 mm optical discs. Dedicated Video CD player were available, but most DVD and Blu-ray players, personal computers, and some video game consoles will play them.
The older CD Video format could only store analogue video and was limited in its capacity to just 5 minutes of video, but new digital compression techniques allowed 74 minutes of audio and video on a Video CD. Overall quality is similar to VHS.
Video CD had a brief period of success, and some major feature films were released on it (usually as a 2 disc set). However it lacked copy protection so the increasing availability of recordable media such as CD-R meant unauthorised copies could be made, and DVD (which had copy protection and regional coding) became available in 1998. During the 2000s, DVD replaced it.
Video CD made considerable inroads into Asia and developing nations, where it is still in use today.
LaserDisc was the first optical videodisc format. MCA and Philips demonstrated a laser videodisc in 1972, and it was initially marketed in 1978 in the US as MCA DiscoVision, with the first release being ‘Jaws’.
From 1980, it became known as LaserDisc, although the official name of the format was LaserVision until the early 1990s. It was released in Japan in 1981, and finally reached Europe in 1983. The technologies and concepts behind LaserDisc are the foundation for later optical disc formats, including Compact Disc, DVD, and Blu-ray.
The most common size of LaserDisc was 30 cm, allowing for up to 60 minutes per side. This is made up of two single-sided aluminum discs layered in plastic. The spiral track of a 30cm LaserDisc is 42 miles long. After one side was finished playing, a disc has to be flipped over in order to continue watching a movie, and some titles fill two or more discs. A number of 20cm LaserDiscs were also produced, and these ‘EP’ sized discs were often used for music video compilations.
There were also 12 cm CD-Video discs, and Video Single Discs. A CD-Video carried up to five minutes of LaserDisc video content (usually a music video), and up to 20 minutes of digital audio CD tracks. Video Single Discs carried only video, and were only popular in Japan.
LaserDisc was also adapted for data storage, such as for the BBC Domesday Project (as an LV-ROM) and for computer games on the Pioneer LaserActive (as an LD-ROM).
Many early LaserDiscs used a substandard adhesive to sandwich together the two sides of the disc, and this can attack the reflective aluminium layer, causing it to oxidize and lose its reflective characteristics. This was known as ‘laser rot’.
Although it was capable of higher-quality video and audio than other video formats such as VHS and Betamax, it never gained widespread use in the US, largely owing to high costs for the players and the discs. It also remained largely obscure in Europe, but was more popular in Japan and some countries of South East Asia. A total of 16.8 million LaserDisc players were sold worldwide.
The last LaserDisc titles were released in the US in 2000, and in Japan in 2001. Pioneer continued to produce players until 2009.