The CED: RCA’s Very Late, Very Weird Video Gamble (Pt. 1)

The CED: RCA’s Very Late, Very Weird Video Gamble (Pt. 1)


[An electronic / choral rendition of Mussorgsky’s
Pictures at an Exhibition] So. It’s the mid 1960’s, everyone’s got
a television, but nobody’s got a way to choose what they wanna watch. You’ve got your network affiliates, a few
of those newfangled UHF stations… I hear 62’s pretty good. But that’s it. How boring. How limiting. How archaic. Now we’ve got video tape recorders, but
those things use crazy technology that’s super expensive. We’ll probably never get video tape technology
to the point that we could market it for the home. And besides, without some sort of… small case
which holds the tape in a convenient and easy-to-handle form factor, it’s not likely to go over
well with the layperson. Clearly tape isn’t a good option. I know! Discs! Yes, it can be hard to believe for those who
remember transitioning from VHS to DVD, but if things went according to plan, us home
users would have had video discs long before we had video tape. RCA had begun research into a home videodisc
system in 1964, and a mere 17 years later, they came out with this. The Capacitance Electronic Disc system, or
CED, which they branded and marketed as the SelectaVision Videodisc System. This product was RCA’s ultimate folly. It arguably destroyed the company. After years of relentless research, they released
a product so incredibly limited and so hilariously flawed that it’s a miracle they even bothered
trying. Yet, they did. And they shouldn’t have. Now, there are still some fans of this ill-fated
videodisc system, and I’m sorry if I upset you when I say this, but it must be said. RCA was out of their minds here. In hindsight, this product was so incredibly
weird and dumb and doomed. But… the idea behind it is actually pretty
remarkable. Had it been released, say in 1975, it might
have achieved immense success. Our entire media landscape might be completely
different had RCA succeeded in getting this product to market just half a decade earlier. That’s because their ultimate goal was to
use the technology of the humble record player and turn it into a cheap, and easily mass-produced,
video format. Hiding inside this caddy is a black PVC disc,
not that different from the standard phonograph records of the day. This disc is read with a stylus, just like
a normal phonograph record, however it’s not vibration that it’s detecting. I’ll get to that a little later but this
is evidence that RCA did actually meet the goal they set out for themselves. It was just accomplished way too late, and
with way too many compromises. As usual, to understand this story, we need
to start in the past before the past this comes from. In the early days of radio and television,
RCA, that’s the Radio Corporation of America, was among the most innovative companies. Their history dates back to 1899, when the
Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America was formed as a subsidiary of the British
Marconi Company. In these early days of radio, the technologies
which made radio possible were constantly evolving. Through World War I, radio was used almost
exclusively for wireless telegraphy, that’s the classic dots and dashes that make up the
world famous, say it with me now, character encoding schemes of which
Morse code is one. Simple radio transmitters, called spark-gap
transmitters, were able to send radio pulses quite easily, however audio wasn’t super
possible yet. Transmission of audio was relatively rare
and mainly experimental. It wouldn’t really become, what you might
call, “a thing” until after the war. Speaking of after the war, well, actually
before the war, in 1904, what rhymes galore! General Electric had been tasked with creating
a high frequency alternator, which was then designed by Ernst Alexanderson, and thus the
world of radio was introduced to another transmission technology, the Alexanderson Alternator. Compared with the earlier spark-gap transmitters,
it allowed for transmitting on very narrow frequency bands (reducing noise), and had
a lot of other neat advantages, too, but also some disadvantages, notably… they were
huge. But, anyway… In 1919, now we’re after the war again,
General Electric had installed one of these amazing Alexanderson Alternators for the US
Navy at the Marconi transmitter site in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Marconi people were super impressed with
the thing, and they were all like “We’d like to buy your alternator production division,
General Electric” to which GE responded, “Well golly gee ain’t that dandy, we’ve
been looking to sell off our alternator production unit and you sound like the perfect entity
to make that purchase” to which the US Navy said “Uh-oh”. See, the Navy was getting all worried that
if American Marconi was able to buy the alternator production from GE, they (and thus their British
parent company) would have world domination in wireless communications. The Navy said, “we can’t have that!” So, the Navy convinced GE to, rather than
sell their alternator production to American Marconi to just go ahead and buy American Marconi
and nip that little world domination problem in the bud. And so they did, turning American Marconi
into a subsidiary of General Electric, which would henceforth be called the Radio Corporation
of America. So. That’s how RCA became a thing. RCA grew and grew and grew, breaking into
the consumer radio space, and eventually the whole “RCA is owned by GE and they’re getting
kinda monopolistic” thing meant that RCA was forced by the US Justice Department to break
off into its own company in 1932. But still. They were huge, and they knew how to make
cool sh**. RCA had touched nearly every major technological
advancement of the early twentieth century. They had purchased the Victor company, which
not only granted them use of Nipper and the classic “His Master’s Voice” tagline,
but also Victor’s record label and phonograph production. RCA had developed Photophone, a sound-on-film
system for motion pictures. They were instrumental in the proliferation
of television, and pretty much invented color television. In fact, they weren’t just RCA. They were ANNOUNCER:
R C A The most trusted name in television! So. This was a massive and well-respected company, with nearly limitless resources, talented engineers, and with a long track record of successful innovation. And yet, somehow… This happened. The RCA Videodisc is simultaneously a technical
marvel and a technical monstrosity. Getting a phonograph record to produce video
signals that a TV could display was a rather lofty goal. Allow me to explain why. This phonograph record contains a very long
spiral groove with walls that move up and down and all around, and when you put it on
a turntable, then put a stylus inside the groove, and give the record a good spin, those
wibbly wobbly grooves will make the stylus go all wibbly wobbly, too. And thanks to the phonograph’s cartridge, those wibbly wobbly wibble wobbles turn into electrical signals. We can then make those signals stronger through
amplification, pump them through loudspeakers, and listen to the music contained on the disc. But, well this disc doesn’t need to produce
very high frequency signals. The range of human hearing tops out at around
20 kilohertz, so we don’t need to make this record too precisely. If we want to make a disc capable of higher
frequencies, we need to do one of two things; either make the groove walls contain really
tightly spaced wobbles, or speed up the rotation of the disc. Ideally, we’d do both. OK, so how much more bandwidth do we need? If normal disc can go up to 20 kilohertz, uh, what’s a TV signal? Oh, just about 5 megahertz. Alright, so we need to fit 250 times as much
information onto one of these discs. that sounds… difficult. And it was. Remember, research started in 1964, but the
product didn’t get released until 1981. When it finally did make it to market, up
to 60 minutes of video (later pushed to 63) were held on each side of the disc, and although
bandwidth was reduced to 3 megahertz to make things a little easier, this still meant that
about 450 times as much information was held on a 60 minute CED than on a 20 minute vinyl record. Now, you might be wondering, why on Earth
was RCA so determined to make video work on vinyl? Simple. Ease of manufacture. Vinyl records are stamped from metal masters,
and can be pumped out quickly and cheaply. If RCA could figure out how to use the dead
simple, and decades-perfected technology of the phonograph to produce a videodisc, they
would have had a miraculous product on their hands. RCA envisioned a relatively cheap device,
not that far off from a normal record player, that you’d simply put your new video discs in,
and be delighted as your living room became a place to watch television on your own terms. The discs themselves wouldn’t be very expensive
to make, as they’d just be a more perfected vinyl record. So movie and television studios should be happy
to jump on board, as discs could be sold for little more than the cost of a record album,
while still making significant profit. The premise seems less bonkers when you remember
that in 1964, videotape was well over a decade away from entering the home market in meaningful
volumes. Delicate mechanisms, expensive electronics,
and open-reels of wide, heavy tape made it seem very unlikely that videotape would end
up in the home any time soon. And even if that somehow happened, the tapes
themselves would be very expensive, not only because the tape is expensive to manufacture,
but because mass-producing pre-recorded tapes would require dozens or even hundreds of tape
recorders to make duplicate recordings in real-time. So it wouldn’t be a great way to sell pre-recorded
content. Nobody would buy such an expensive tape, and
no movie studio will settle for the razor-thin margins. And so, in the frame of 1964, the RCA Videodisc
actually seems like a great idea. Use the same equipment and technology that’s
used to mass-produce records for the music industry, and replicate that model for things
like movies, television shows, and perhaps one day, whole new categories of content. Except, the development process dragged on
for far too long. By 1972, they had only managed to fit 10 minutes
of video on one side of a disc. What’s more, they discovered that simple
vinyl discs wouldn’t work. The technology they had developed required
that the discs be conductive. The first prototype discs were metallized, with a styrene
top coat, and a lubricant coating on top of that. Now RCA wasn’t dumb, and they realized 10
minutes was dumb. So, they kept on trucking, continuing to pour
resources into the project. One of the things they soon discovered was
that the discs were extremely fragile. If you’re trying to pack a few dozen grooves
into the space of what used to be just one, the discs could easily be destroyed from normal handling. Up until this point, RCA imagined the discs
would be naked, just like normal phonograph records. Finally realizing that, well, this is silly, RCA
designed these not-at-all clunky caddies to hold the discs nice and safely. We wouldn’t want humans touching them. Still, the system needed a lot more work. The prototype discs, being multi-layered and
metallized, didn’t exactly follow the “make movies as quickly and cheaply as vinyl”
premise they had been getting at. They did eventually discover that using PVC
impregnated with conductive carbon particles would work well enough, and so they did get back to that
goal eventually, but it took a while. As we know. By the time 1981 rolled around, RCA had “perfected”
the system. 60 minutes per side, safe protective caddies,
a totally sleek-looking player, and a catalog of movies ready to go at launch. The players were pretty cheap to make, so
RCA was able to sell them for about $500 (that’s roughly equivalent to $1,500
today). That sounds steep, but videocassette recorders
cost about double that when the CED was launched. Wait. Wait. You mean, videotape made it into the home
before the CED was launched? Yes. It did! And you know who had a big part in making
that happen? Why, a little company called RCA. Remember how I said RCA wasn’t dumb? Well, they saw the rise of the videocassette
recorder happening, and quickly jumped in. They didn’t manufacture any VCRs themselves,
instead choosing to outsource that task to companies like Matushita and Hitachi, but
RCA’s presence in the VCR market was a huge deal. RCA backed the VHS format created by JVC,
rather than going with the slightly older Betamax format from Sony. And, it was RCA who pushed the development
of the long-play recording mode, enabling VHS machines to record 4 hours on one tape,
and finally capture an entire football game. This was all happening in the late 1970’s,
in fact RCA’s very first VCR (which was the first to support 4 hour recording) hit the scene in 1977. Oh, and you know what RCA decided to call
their line of VCRs? SelectaVision. What!? Yeah, this was weird. RCA decided to use the name they were planning
to call their new videodisc system for their imported line of VCRs. Now, I suppose this wasn’t a huge deal,
but it is still strange. In fact, it looks like RCA just stole
all the planned marketing material for the CED and slapped it onto their VCRs. ANNOUNCER:
Let RCA turn your television into SelectaVision! This seemed even weirder when you remember
that in the early days of the VCR, pre-recorded content wasn’t really a thing yet. For the most part, VCRs were used to record
live TV to be watched later, a process known as time-shifting. In that context, SelectaVision doesn’t even
really make that much sense. You’re not selecting something to watch. You’re planning to record something, and
will watch it later. Remember, these devices are called VCRs, which
stands for video cassette recorder, not video cassette player. And it’s not a “VHS player” Stop calling it that. RCA was either really forward thinking and
thought that pre-recorded tapes would eventually become a big deal, but of course that would
fly in the face of their continuing efforts to produce the Videodisc system, or else they
were just really lazy and figured, sure, we’ll use that name we planned to use for this entirely
different product we’re still working on for some reason. Just to muddy the waters a bit, SelectaVision
was actually first coined for an earlier abandoned project of RCA’s, the HoloTape player, however
even though that was tape-based, it wasn’t capable of recording. This story, for such a simple product, is
maddeningly complicated and bizarre. Had the CED existed in a vacuum, it would
have made sense. But in a world where the VCR existed, a world
where the VCR was actively being marketed by RCA, its existence is jus… it, it’s… WHY? Why bother continuing this project? What problem could the videodisc possibly
solve when RCA’s own VCRs had been on the market for four years? Well… maybe, cost. Alright. After talking about this for close to 15 minutes,
we’re finally gonna explore this player a little more. The genius of RCA’s machine is that, compared
to a VCR, it’s incredibly simple. Just a turntable, a pickup mechanism containing
the stylus, and then the electronics needed to decode the signals on the disc. To play a disc, the caddy is inserted all
the way into the player, which unlocks and grabs hold of the spine, and thus when the
caddy is removed, the disc is left inside. The main control lever is mechanically linked
to the turntable, and moving it from the load/unload position into the play position lifts the
turntable, which in turn lifts the disc up towards the stylus. It also closes a shutter to prevent you from
inserting the caddy while it’s playing. The motor driving the turntable could be a
cheap, single-speed AC motor since the discs spin at a constant speed of 450 RPM, which
is tied to the frame rate of television sets, which is itself tied to the line frequency
of 60 hz. You can easily hear the distinctive 60 hz
humming of a plain ‘ol motor. [a clunk-like sound] [humming] [some resonance as the motor reaches speed] [and other various mechanical noises, with a distinct one right… about…. here] In PAL countries (yes, RCA did briefly market
this system overseas) the turntable spun at 375 RPM, which is tied to the frame rate and
line frequency of 50 hz. Each rotation of the disc held 4 complete
frames of video, or eight fields, and since a television will automatically synchronize
itself with the vertical blanking intervals encoded on the disc, a simple AC motor would
work fine. You can see the 8 blanking intervals on a
CED pretty clearly with the right light, just like you can see them on a CAV Laserdisc. However, a Laserdisc only holds one frame
of video per rotation, so you only see two blanking intervals. And now let’s talk about that stylus. The very tiny, user-replaceable diamond stylus
is there only to provide physical tracking on the disc. The player doesn’t sense vibration in the
stylus, nor does the stylus actually have anything to do with the signal being read. Instead, bonded to the stylus is a titanium
electrode which senses changes in capacitance brought about by the depth of the groove. Ah, finally the answer as to why it’s called
the Capacitance Electronic Disc. And also the answer to why the disc needed
to be conductive. The disc, being a conductor, and the titanium
electrode, also being a conductor, form a capacitor. The actual video and audio signals are created
by teeny tiny little undulations on the disc, which move the surface of the disc closer
to and farther away from the electrode as it spins, thus varying the value of the capacitor
formed by the stylus and disc. The circuitry in the player is essentially
measuring the capacitance value, and as it changes, it can convert that change into a
change in signal amplitude. And thus, we can recreate a video signal. For those paying careful attention, you’ll
have noticed that the player measures change in a capacitor. Now, when something is said to be in a state
of ongoing change, it is sometimes said to be in flux. Therefore, this disc, when being read by the
player, becomes part of a flux capacitor. Now you know. Also, Back to the Future was in fact released
on CED, though if we jump ahead that far we’ll be spoiling the end. Fun fact! The first shipment of DeLoreans left Belfast
just two days before the CED system was officially released on March 22nd, 1981. The player was able to control where the stylus
landed on the disc with an electromagnet, as well as by moving the carriage that contains
the stylus. Ordinarily the carriage would just move in
steps as the stylus followed the disc (and the disc contained some basic digital signaling
to tell the player where it was), but when using the picture search function, the player
could bump the stylus forwards and backwards with the electromagnet for finer control. This was also used to get the player out of
a locked groove situation, as it could determine it was stuck thanks to the position signals that weren’t advancing, and kick the stylus forward a couple of grooves to get unstuck. And getting stuck was, unfortunately, not
uncommon. ♫ ♫ [ suddenly no more ♫ ] While the caddies did a fairly good job at
keeping the discs clean, they weren’t perfect. And in fact, the caddies themselves could destroy the discs if they weren’t stored right. See, this system wasn’t just late, it was
awfully flawed. But before we get into that, let’s finish
this video up by talking a little bit about the discs themselves. RCA’s VideoDiscs were sold for between $15
and about $30, although the vast majority were priced at $20 and up, and some special
box sets shot way past $30. Now that’s not… terribly expensive, even
for 1981 dollars. In 1981 vinyl LPs were starting to push into
the $10 territory for high-profile releases, so you could say SelectaVision discs cost
about the same as 2 new record albums. And, really, that’s pretty great when you
consider that you’re getting a 90 minute (or so) movie for the same cost as at best an hour
of music. When new, these discs had about the same image
quality as a VHS tape, though some claimed it was a little better. And honestly, the quality of the image coming
from these discs is perfectly fine. The only problem is…
this can happen. [ unintelligible audio as the disc skips uncontrollably ] How common was this when the system was new? It’s hard to say. The caddy design was fairly good and would
keep dust from getting in there, so perhaps these discs all worked great in 1981. For now, let’s just assume they did. Since the discs only held 60 minutes per side,
at some point you’re gonna have to flip that disc over. And, that’s a somewhat strange task with
this player. You take your empty caddy, stick it all the
way in, pull it back out, now flip it over, shove it back in all the way again, and pull it
out again. That’s… a little more cumbersome than
just flipping an LP over. Or a Laserdisc. Ahhh yeah…. What about that other videodisc format? Well, it certainly didn’t help RCA’s mission,
here. But, it might not have mattered much at all. Early laserdiscs typically weren’t mastered
all that well, and comparing the quality between a CED and a Laserdisc from the early ‘80s
reveals, they’re actually not that far off. However, it’s possible that had RCA decided
to take one of the innovations of Laserdisc and adapt it for the CED, it might not have
failed quite as hard as it did. Or perhaps at all. In the next video, we’ll take a closer look
at where the CED was in the marketplace, how it managed to justify its existence in a sea
of VCRs and Laserdiscs, and why given what we know about how its short life panned out,
it might have radically changed how we consumed media throughout the 1980’s and into today,
especially if it had been released in the mid ‘70s. Thanks for watching! I know this story meandered around a lot,
but I promise everything you learned here will make the next video make a little more
sense. And it will also make the CED make even less
sense. As always, I’d like to thank the fine folks
supporting this channel through Patreon. Viewers like you make this channel possible,
and I really appreciate your support. If you’d like to join these people in supporting
the channel with a pledge of your own, please check out my Patreon page. Thanks for your consideration, and I’ll
see you next time. ♫ capacitavely smooth jazz ♫ Somehow… [sounds of discs clattering together] No… So, that’s how RCA became a thing. R… [clears throat] So? So. So? So. Why on Earth was RCA so determined to make
video work on vinyl? Simple. [smirks] Or don’t fall down, that works too… …hundreds of tape duplicators to make duplicate
recording in real t… augh, no no no, I scr aarr arr… that was
tape recorders! Duplicators is a term that you’d probably
get the context of, but no. In PAL [coughs] And It was, remember res… no. no no no. no no no no no.

100 Replies to “The CED: RCA’s Very Late, Very Weird Video Gamble (Pt. 1)”

  1. It was a novel idea and I see where they were coming from, but I doubt it would have sped up or changed the advent of the USB pen drive for an easy transportable media system, not to mention board band internet

  2. I can remember these being demonstrated in the department stores and even though they were new, they stilled skipped like crazy!

  3. The problem that the video disc solves vs tape is random access for chapters and no need to rewind.

    Wow. To think my best friend in elementary school had a flux capacitor and I didn't even know it. Star Trek : TMP looked pretty amazing on that player.

  4. The 3 tones for the nbc chime are the notes GEC for GE Corporation. The Selectavision video disc was developed and then shelved due to cost, but was ressurected when the laser disc came on the market. And RCA had a much larger catalog of movies then laser disc had.The machines originally sold for $500, but that came down to the point where the were making money on the discs and practically giving the machines away. The main trouble was disc wear, just as in records giving the discs a limited life. These discs were not easy to make and had to be dead flat to work reliably. A problem they never could overcome. I worked for RCA in the 70's and 80's.

  5. You can't get any more layman's terms than "Wibbledy wobbles" 👍😁. Thank you for trying to explain everything to us! I really do enjoy your videos so much!
    Your videos usually give me a great trip down memory lane. My dad used to have a CB Radio room, where we also kept a HEAP of old electronics that either needed to be fixed or were used for spare parts. I remember being 5years old and going back there and asking him sooo many questions on what literally every screw and solder joint was for. I wanted to know EVERYTHING! (I'm still like this lol) Finally dad was tired of half a million questions, so he plopped a screw driver in my little hand and gave me an old, dismantled VHS player and an old VCR like you showed. He sat with me that evening and showed me how to take it apart. Oh my, did he create a monster, so to speak! First, every week I'd ask for a new thing to tinker with, then I got better and it was every few days, then it was every couple days. I actually miss being able to physically work on things like you would when things were more "low tech". I try to keep older stuff around if I can help it.
    Thank you for your great work! Your channel is truly a gem!

  6. Thanks for digging deep on this one.
    Had seen the other videos on the format but this contains so much detailed information!
    Thanks for doing all the research, your videos are awesome!!!!

  7. A little more of the history but nothing new and more opinion based.

    I had one in 1982..83?
    It was a mono player for around $200 dollars, I added Stereo just by adding a few capacitors and a separation chip for the + and – L/R channels.

    The technology was great for the time and the disks were cheap.
    I would not mind playing with one today but in no way going to pay a fortune on EBAY when I can get the same movies digitally now.

    I only bought the thing because of Raiders, Star Wars and Blue Thunder.

  8. Neither CED or LaserDisk worked in the consumer market …. but then DVD blew VCRs off the shelves … make sense of that! And now streaming is destroying the DVD …

  9. I just disagree with you about who invented 100% electronic Color TV and video and they weren't RCA neither LG or either other US or europe individual, company, or investigation center, they made it a mass product I give them that, but the technology, including the cameras to take the images, transmision and a TV capable to recive and display a color video signal were invented in México (no kidding is for real) by the engeniere Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena in 1939 presenting his patent in Mexico the next year and in the US in 1941 (you can check if you wish), in fact, the first Olimpic Games that were transmited in color were in 1968, cassualy, in Mexico City.

  10. How on earth do you find this stuff out. The technology stuff is niche enough. But it's the marketing context stuff that really impress me. It's basically ultra niche historian stuff. I also really like the high rate at which we're presented information. None of this speaking… Nice… And.. Slowly… In case…. Were idiots… Woops… That's…all… We've… Got…. Time… For

  11. You are good, Mr.T.C.: concise, and well edited, and also witty. 5 times the information of a standard History Channel (shudder) documentary in a quarter the time.

  12. 8:50 minutes in and I wonder… What would have happened of they made it music oriented? Could it have been the Vinyl CD? Digital Vynil Music.

  13. The famous Sony Betamax case started in 1976 and wasn't settled until 1984. Maybe RCA was hedging their bet that movie studios would ditch recordable formats like tape for harder to copy formats like discs.

  14. I do believe techmoan covered video vinal a few years ago.

    I remember my Aunt and Uncle had a video player that took discs that was in those hard plastic sleeves. The damn sleeve would often get jammed into the player and was a PITA to get back out. It very well could have been a vinal video player (can't remember seeing laserdisc being in a sleeve like that). I remember they had Mad Max (it was how I first seen it as a kid) and star wars for it and a few other movies.

  15. Great video! I had a demo of the CED in RCA Victor's museum in Montreal. They had three machines in working condition!

  16. as soon as you started talking, i thought that the sound quality was really good. i dont know if it was the contrast between the intro and regular audio, but it seems like your new audio setup is good!

  17. Be careful the styli have a very limited life expectancy. Some heavily used players had to have them replaced nearly every month.

  18. I grew up with one of these in the early 80s, at least for a few years before VCRs became more common. I thought it was awesome. We had a few movies and there was a store in town that had a huge wall of rental movies. In those days, the ability to watch Star Wars on demand was pretty mind blowing.

  19. I loved this video! Very well researched and introduced me to something that I had never heard about.
    I am a history geek and an Electronics hobbyist since my childhood. Your channel is just perfect for me! 🙂
    Keep up with your wonderful work!

  20. Disc versus Tape. Sometimes Disc won, sometimes Tape.

    Even though both defeated by solid-state storage disc achieved final victory with a masterstroke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeLvdE8lNW4

  21. That’s the model my parents got us, probably on the tail end, since we had a good collection of movies that I now suspect were being cleared out. Not a bad deal, picking up movies on the cheap back when VHS titles were priced for rental. And ours never got worn or dirty enough to skip, somehow. I’d have my friends over, and we’d watch Empire, Khaaaaaaan!, Raiders, Jaws, and so on. Which we would’ve had to beg our folks to rent, otherwise.

  22. You know, I've usually prided myself in knowing, or at the very least having heard of, the sometimes odd things you talk about on your channel…
    But I can say with certainty this was something I've never even heard of or even knew it existed

  23. So here's what you didn't tell us: The CED actually could have been out in 1975-76 had the RCA management not undergone so much change and had not put the project on hold so often. It wasn't the development of the technology that delayed it. I think you give RCA too much unwarranted criticism, as if it were just one big brain knowing all and running everything, and not a bunch of little corporate executive heads in a constant state of changing authority, which is the reality, so they weren't really out of their minds.

    The CED is an amazing piece of technology, and it is the rightful heir and final resting place of Edison's groove and stylus method of audio reproduction, because it contains video and can have 5.1 channel audio too. ALSO, the stylus will actually clean the grooves, so that all one needs to do to get rid of most skipping of a dusty disc, not played in a while, is to pre-play it on a machine prior to viewing. And every physical media has issues if NOT STORED PROPERLY.

    Now just in case you think I'm talking out of my butt, I'm probably one of the last few people in the USA who understand and can still repair these players, and I currently have about 30 of them on hand. RCA wasn't wrong on their initial idea in 1964, but where they failed was in hesitating and putting production on hold too often. You can fault the RCA execs, but don't diss the discs.

  24. I have Goldfinger and From Russia With Love , both still have the price tag on them from April of 82 at $27.95. The artwork on the front of them is neat that's the only reason i bought them

  25. The CED’s prolonged development certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that the original development team only consisted of four people.

  26. I fell asleep while listening to this. I dreamt so damn weird trippy dreams about RCA trying to sell me a shitty casette player in the market store with a guy in the isle explaining why it was such a shitty player. And then it had a function which could like take an old game like from the time of these were made, and then inject textures from movies of the game from today, and it looked like a bad trip on acid. I was inside the game too, not watching it on a screen.

  27. 5 MHz? NTSC's engineers were a bit stingy with the bandwidth, given that PAL broadcasts in Australia were in 7 MHz channels (as are our current DVB-T broadcasts).

  28. Television was invented by Philo Farnsworth in California
    Philo Taylor Farnsworth’s laboratory where the first television image was transmitted. The landmark plaque at the corner of Green and Sansome Streets refers to him as “The Genius of Green Street.”

    Phil Farnsworth in 1935 with a television set he invented. Although it was Farnsworth who first successfully demonstrated the transmission of television signals in 1927, for ten years the two men were involved in court battles with the US Patent Office—Zworykin’s battle funded by his employer, Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

     On September 7, 1927, in his lab at the bottom of Telegraph Hill,
    21-year-old Phil Farnsworth’s invention transmitted the blurry image of a
    line. With his “Lab Gang,” as the researchers called themselves, he
    perfected the technology, in the next year transmitting shapes, and a
    few years later sending signals from the lab at 202 Green Street to the
    Merchants’ Exchange Building on Battery and Washington—8 blocks away.

    Phil Farnsworth was born in 1906 in a Utah town settled by his grandfather,
    who had come west with Mormon Church leader Brigham Young in 1856. As a
    young boy, Phil was fascinated by anything related to machines and
    electricity. At age 13 he won a magazine contest by developing an
    ignition lock for Model T Fords (an idea he had because all Model T keys
    were identical). At 14 he drew a design for his high school chemistry
    teacher about his idea of an “image dissector tube,” a tube capable of
    shooting a stream of electrons towards a screen.

    The Lab Gang also included Farnsworth’s wife Pem and her brother Cliff
    Gardner. In fact, Phil often said, “My wife and I started television.”
    Pem said in an interview in 1980, “The Gang worked most nights, but on
    the weekends they would have parties. There was always lots of dancing.
    Phil was a marvelous dancer.” The owner of the Green Street building,
    Biaggio Scatena, told the Chronicle in 1977, “He was a nice boy. He was
    very friendly.” Scatema said Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio,
    visited the Green Street lab.

    News of the television was announced in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 1928. Around this time, a fire in the lab – with its high voltages, volatile chemicals, and vacuum tubes that could implode – destroyed equipment. They repaired the lab and started again.

    Others were also trying to create television. In 1924, Charles Jenkins invented radiovision ? a mechanical scanning drum showing moving silhouettes. In 1925, Scottish engineer John Baird demonstrated mechanical transmissions of images using arrays of transparent rods. And Vladimir Zworykin, a one-time
    guest of the Green Street lab, in 1923 applied for a patent for his
    iconoscope – an electronic image scanner that was not functional until
    some years later.

    Although it was Farnsworth who first successfully demonstrated the transmission of television signals in 1927, for ten years the two men were involved in court battles with the US Patent Office—Zworykin’s battle funded by his employer, Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

    Instrumental in Phil’s case was his high school chemistry teacher’s
    testimony and the drawing of the image dissector tube the 14-year-old
    had shown him. Eventually Farnsworth won a suit against RCA entitling
    him to be legally called the “Father of Television.” Phil Farnsworth won
    14 separate challenges to his ideas with the Patent Office, filed 86
    patents while working at Green Street, and held over 300 US and foreign
    patents.
    In 1931, Philco Radio Corporation offered to fund Farnsworth’s research
    if he would move the lab to Philadelphia. Pem did not want to leave San
    Francisco, and Phil supposedly told her they would be back soon. Pem
    said, “Our hearts were always in the West.”

    Although he was widely unknown as the developer of television, Pem
    Farnsworth worked hard after his death in 1971 to ensure his place in
    history. She told one newspaper, “I used to get upset with it. But he
    didn't. He just said, ‘Historians will take care of that.’” In 2002,
    the Emmy Awards of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
    recognized Philo T. Farnsworth as “the inventor of electric television.”
    Pem Farnsworth accepted the award for her husband.

    Sources: SF Progress, June 25, 1982
    San Francisco Focus, September 1980
    San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 1977
    http://sfmuseum.net/hist10/philo.html

  29. Television was invented by Philo Farnsworth in California
    Philo Taylor Farnsworth’s laboratory where the first television image
    was transmitted. The landmark plaque at the corner of Green and Sansome
    Streets refers to him as “The Genius of Green Street.”

    Phil Farnsworth in 1935 with a television set he invented. Although it
    was Farnsworth who first successfully demonstrated the transmission of
    television signals in 1927, for ten years the two men were involved in
    court battles with the US Patent Office—Zworykin’s battle funded by his
    employer, Radio Corporation of America (RCA)
    His children were told that R.C.A. literally STOLE his Life! R.C.A. was a predatory TRUMP STYLE corporation. Have Lawyers: Will Steal!

  30. I worked at a local t.v. station, mostly infomercials, randomly we'd get a master on 1" open reel tape ( 95%+ was beta, rarely .5" cassette ) and easily half the time someone loaded the one incher they'd invariably mess up the take-up reel (loading was easy, a vacuum system pulled the tape through) and then notice half way through there was a tangled ruin of tape on the floor. I stared leaving the big garbage can next to the reel-to-reel just so tape had a place to fall. The mess was impressive! 😂

  31. Rather unsurprisingly I hadn't heard of this format before (must've missed Techmoan's video as well) so this was very interesting. Makes you wonder how many other forgotten formats there are, especially ones that didn't even make it to production. RCA's history was very interesting too

  32. Wow! This is great! I never heard of this midis format before and never realized it even existed. I think we would still be in the same boat as today as we’ve gotten away from physical media content and in a world of cloud based, streaming based, and solid state media.

  33. You got to remember 70s and 80s was a crazy time for stuff. A lot of stuff was try out back then. It’s was not a bad idea at the time and was far advanced at the time. It was just done and Market wrong. You got to remember if things like this never happened then you would not have dvd and blue-ray today. Everything is taken from ideas of others.

  34. RCA had only 2 major contributions to NTSC color television the first practical/manufacturable color CRT* (which wasn't a great design, and would have been used in the existing CBS color standard) and second Sarnoff having the pull to convince the FCC to hamstring the implementation of non-monochrome-compatible CBS field sequential color (which the FCC had briefly standardized as a commercial broadcast format). The QAM color subcarrier transmission scheme that made compatible color actually work was developed by Philco…Without that CBS field-sequential might have stuck and lived on RCA color CRTs instead of the cheap but impractical for large screens mechanical color wheels it was born on.

    *The 15GP22 color CRT RCA developed to the tune of millions of 1954 dollars was obsolete in months. The CRT was ridiculously over-complicated to manufacture and required electrostatic convergence. Their competitor looked at the separate phosphor image plate inside the envelope and rightly said "this is stupid! lets apply the phosphor directly to the inside of the envelope like a monochrome CRT"…RCA paid them a fortune for that patent. Zenith developed electromagnetic convergence (and the ultrasonic remote system RCA was imitating in the Worthington commercial footage you included) that eliminated having to include a complex high voltage AC/DC (AC with DC offset) waveform at the CRT neck socket. Their second CRT, the 21AXP22, one could say was RCAs response to the rest of the industry showing them exactly how their practical color CRT barely met the billing of practical.

    Sorry for the rambling correction…I'm a big early color TV nerd. I actually own/have restored to working examples the first 4 generations production RCA color TV chassis (CTC2, CTC2B/CTC3, CTC4, CTC5), and their most overengineered broadcast monitor the TM-21. And some sets by other makers including Philco's first color and Motorola's third. Want to see video of the selectivision intros played on RCAs second color TV set (mid restoration thus why the chassis sits on the bench in the background connected to the CRT by extension cables) the 21CT55/CTC2B? go to my flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/39040376455/in/album-72157690691153411/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/39227698744/in/album-72157690691153411/

  35. RCA contributed to the loss of possibly the finest engineer of the 20th century. Edwin Howard Armstrong who jumped to his death after RCA knobbled his FM patent. He and Alan Blumlein between them were responsible for almost every advance in analogue electronics. Blumlein was lost testing top secret airborne radar during WW2.
    Their achievements are too long to list but include regeneration, the superhet, stereo, ultralinear operation, FM etc. etc…
    With home video, I guess there could only be one winner – and we know it was JVC's VHS which buried the rest; Philips, RCA, Sony etc. Only the Laser Disc hung about as it had some real benefits in the audio dept.

  36. I loved these things when I was a kid. We used to rent them for a week and get a bunch of movies. The store wasn't all that far away so that was awesome. Could walk there in less then 10 minutes. But yeah, they kinda suck when they don't work. But for the time. It was awesome to have these. Some of my favorite movies were first seen on them. The one we rented over and over was Pink Floyd The Wall. Pretty much got that every time we rented the machine. They kinda came and went. But my parents bought a beta machine. Oops. Didn't take them long to switch over. But I've always wanted to get another one of these players. But the hassle. It's just the hassle of the player itself. Owning the movie itself would be better. Then play the blu ray of it instead. But yeah. I'd like to have one of those machines. And a couple hundred pounds of movies and a spot to put it all and be like, oh look at this. It'd be just as bad as collecting records. But still cool stuff. Too bad there wasn't some old tech store where you could go rent things like this, like they used to do back then.

  37. Classic case of sunk cost fallacy – you've already spent millions on the technology, and despite missing the market window for a product like that – keep on dumping money into it.

  38. They thought the uk would try to manipulate the world… its so weird how we always portrait our flaws and lower intentions in others…

  39. You’ve said that RCA backed up JVC VHS format, but isn’t JVC related to RCA since both carry the Victor brand?

  40. Now I want to put Infinity War on a SelectaVision disc.
    Yes, I want to put the most successful movie in history on the biggest failure in home video history.

  41. "a mere 17 YEARS later…" I've said it once and I'll say it again, Technology connections is my favorite because you come for the nerd stuff and get treated to comedy gold as a bonus.

  42. I worked on the vinyl used to make CEDs. Tenneco made the majority of vinyl acetate copolymer for phonograph records and the company worked with RCA to incorporate the carbon to make the disk electrically conductive. My job was to examine the "groves" with the scanning electron microscope and also determine the particle size of household dust which could get into the groves.

  43. Techmoan have talk about something similar, but more recent. Movies on vinyl VHD from the 80s.

    Still why kinda compete against it self with that when the vcr was already out?

    So part two is not finish yet?

  44. I never even knew about this, interesting tech for the time though. As a side note I think it's cool how you get your hands on this old tech. I guess some of it can be found on ebay. Makes me want to setup a "retro" room and get stuff like this. 😛

  45. Channels like yours help me know I am not insane and delusional; since I remember there being tons of space age, mind blowing tech pieces back in the 1980s when I was a sub 5 year old kid, which all vanished in the 90s; and seriously made me wonder WTF even happened… But now like 30 years later I am relieved to find out all that weird stuff was real.

  46. I’m feeling freaked out right now, because my family doesn’t remember anything about a CED player. Is this a Mandela Effect?
    We remember renting what we thought was a laser disk player in the early 80’s and playing Star Trek I. My uncle remembers the laser disks didn’t come in the caddies, but this particular evening, I could have swore it was in a caddy and we had to flip the disk over like you described.
    Could it be merging timelines? Lol.

  47. 1975 would have beaten Sony BetaMax and would have beaten cable TV in most places. By 1981, there was Beta, VHS and HBO/Showtime on cable. It was too late for the non-digital disc.

  48. As a former owner of an RCA SelectaVision CED machine (purchased from Montgomery Wards on my store credit card for $450) and half-a-dozen movies in that format, I found this video utterly fascinating. I had no idea so much had gone into this technology, and figured at the time that someone had simply managed to get video onto a record somehow. To its credit, the machine worked well for many years, which was probably not that remarkable given that I only owned 6 disks, resulting in not much actual-use time. I believe I simply tossed the machine when it stopped working. I still have the disks though for some reason. Totally useless to me now, and yet I kept the things. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *