Retrotechtacular: Home Video Recording

The news has been full of reports that the last company manufacturing consumer VCRs will cease making them this year. I think most of us are surprised that the event is only happening now. After all, these days, video recording is likely to be on a hard drive, a USB stick, or on a server somewhere. Even recording to DVDs seems a bit quaint these days.

VCR-03Back before there were web sites, people had to get information from magazines like Popular Electronics, Radio Electronics, and a few others. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was common to see these magazines predict that this would be the year of the home video recording system. For example, in 1971, [Lou Garner] wrote: “…they [Sony] hope will put home videotape playing in the same living room as conventional high-fidelity sound systems.” You should know that the video cassette he was talking about was 8 inches wide by 5 inches deep (a big larger than a VHS tape) and contained 3/4 inch magnetic tape (VHS used 1/2 inch tape). The 32-pound player had a retail price of about $350 (about $2,000 in today’s dollars; remember gas was $0.36 a gallon and eggs were $0.53 a dozen). It would be several years before VHS and Betamax would duke it out for home supremacy.

Technical Challenges

You might wonder why it took so long. Audio recording on tape had been a thing for a number of years, mostly using reel-to-reel tape. Audio isn’t as demanding as video (especially video combined with audio). An audio recorder uses a magnetic head that stays still and a tape that moves across the head. The tape speed is slow enough that the tape doesn’t have to have any magic properties to keep from breaking under the strain.

VHS_head_drum_1Using a single head for video was obvious, but had a problem. Because of the increased bandwidth (6 MHz vs 20 kHz or so), the tape had to travel fast. So fast that it was prone to break and a few minutes of video would require a lot of tape. The trick was to not use a stationary head. Video heads reside on a drum that spins. Some systems record vertically on the tape (transverse) while others record in long diagonal stripes (helical).

There are two or more heads spaced around the drum. The combination of the tape moving one way and the head moving the other gives a faster effective speed and increases the bandwidth. Now tape could move at a reasonably leisurely 15 inches per second. It might take a convoluted path (see below) but at lower speeds, the tape could be thinner which meant more tape, longer run times per foot of tape, and the tape was less expensive to produce.

VHS-diagonal-helical-recording

How Did we Get Here?

The BBC experimented with single head recording on steel tapes as early as 1952. The tape had to travel at around 200 inches per second. That’s over 11 miles per hour–not much for a car, but pretty fast for tape.

Ampex_VR_1000-BThe first practical videotape recorder was from Ampex in 1956 (the VRX-1000; see right). With a price tag of about $50,000 there were not many users and probably no consumer users of this device. By 1963, though, Philips introduced the EL3400 and Sony came out with a reel-to-reel recorder (the PV-100) that at least purported to be for the non-broadcast market. It was expensive, though, so in 1965 they rolled out the inexpensive CV-2000 that used a cassette instead of tape reels. Keep in mind that inexpensive meant $1,000 (which would have paid about a third down on a new car at the time). Other companies competed which further drove prices down.

By 1970, the Sony U-Matic cassette appeared. These could record 90 minutes on a cassette, but the recorders were still priced outside the reach of most consumers (although it was very successful in business markets). In 1972, another cassette appeared called Cartrivision (or SVC in Europe). By 1974, that format was dead. Between 1975 and 1977, both Betamax (from Sony) and VHS (from JVC) formats appeared and this led to the infamous format war in the 1980s.

Prior to that, there were many attempts at repackaging surplus commercial video tape recorders for hobbyists as well as a few devices that showed up as kits, but none were very successful. The real assault on the living room was between VHS and Betamax.

Format Wars

Betavhs2With affordable and practical machines, the real war turned into VHS (bottom) vs Betamax (top). Betamax had better technical specifications and picture quality. Betamax lost market share, though. There are probably several reasons, but two stand out: first, the VHS format could hold two hours on a tape which was important for people wanting to rent movies. Sony was slow to introduce a longer Betamax format (the original could hold one hour for NTSC recordings). VHS gear was also cheaper. A possible third reason–although not everyone agrees–was that VHS was willing to allow mass production of pornography, while Sony’s Betamax did not.

By 1988, even Sony started selling VHS machines. Apparently, the Betamax machines had enough foothold in some parts of South America and Japan, that production continued until 2002. Now with VHS gone, too, there’s not much left to talk about with consumer video tape.

Other Uses

When videotape was common, there were other uses for it besides just recording video. There were several schemes for backup up computers using video signals, including ArVid which was popular in the USSR and DVT VCR to back up the Atari ST. These days, old videotape winds up in craft projects including a dress worn by [Kesha] to the 2010 American Music Awards. If you have an old machine, you might consider building a VHS toaster. If you are more science-minded, you could make a centrifuge.

RIP Videotape

There was a time when it was hard to imagine videotape going away (just ask Blockbuster). But it did. Even DVD and BluRay sales are dropping as everything goes to digital distribution. It is a common conceit that what we use will last forever, but it is rarely true. Try to think of what you use today that was around in any form one hundred years ago. Or five hundred. It makes you wonder what common commodities we take for granted today that will be obsolete tomorrow.

Photo Credits

92 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Home Video Recording

  1. I think of of the other death causes for Beta was that Sony refused to release the format to other companies for production (closed format) where as JVC said “go for it”! Remember how many brands of VHS there were vs Beta machines??

    1. This ^.
      I remember the early 80s. You would walk into a store and see a dozen different VHS recorders from at least as many manufacturers for sale, with maybe one Betamax machine stuffed in the back corner where it had been collecting dust for the last few years.
      The same was true in movie rental stores, where VHS absolutely dominated the floor space, with one small corner for Beta, with maybe 15 titles. Beta eventually became a joke, and VHS was the obvious winner.

      1. The video rental store we used was divided down the middle with roughly half VHS and half Betamax. Though over time, the signs dividing the store by format encroached on the Beta side until Betamax tapes were limited to a single shelf in the corner.

        And those were not the only formats available — I have the “Save the Whales” Star Trek movie (complete with original commercial movie studio labels) on a small Hi-8 cassette tape. I wonder if that has any collector value?

    2. People get confused about why porn ended up on VHS, but this was the reason. VHS was the open standard of its day, while Sony demanded that anyone making a video on BetaMax pay royalties for the cassettes. That would be similar to the MPEG group demanding that we pay when we move a CD to mp3; Sony wanted to be paid for the recording hardware, the recording medium, and for the player.*

      Obviously, the largest independent movie studios at the time want with the group that opened the standard and had the quickest price drops due to competition. It just so happens that those indie film folks were pornographers.

      *yes, I know the RIAA/MPAA/etc get a few cents per gigabyte of storage media. In the BetaMax era it was dollars per hour of tape.

  2. RIP DAT and DDS tapes, too.

    I used lots of 4mm helical tapes back in the days when audio cd recording (burning cd’s) was still not ready for consumers and yet we wanted bit perfect copies of digital sources, even if it was a live concert we taped directly to DAT.

    dat recorders had an infamous buzzsaw effect if the tension was not right (2 thicknesses; one for 60meter and less and one for 60-120m length). audio decks never knew about the dds data tapes and their thinner tapes so the buzzsaw would happen due to mis tensioning. ruined many tapes, let me tell you ;(

    plus, the machines had to be aligned and cleaned about once a year and that was a $100 right there. at one point, only 2 places in the US did this and even now I’m not sure anyone is left to do this.

    my pany sv3700 dat deck sits here unused and I don’t even know if anyone would ever buy it. shame, as it was a $1200 deck in its day.

    dat and dds have the same issues as vcr’s. kind of glad they died, but with so many tapes still left (just threw out a boxfull after a house move) I wonder if anyone still keeps that format alive? perhaps for the odd one-off tape master some musician has. even then, good luck finding a place that has a deck still clean and aligned.

    1. if you mean by speeding up like the beginning of the song “killer klowns from outer space” that does not happen on vcrs it happens on audio tape because the tape can wind around the capstan shaft.

      the vcr has a 1 second time out on the rotation of the take up reels so if the rubber tire on the idler or the belts broke it would shut down.

      if you was lucky and the problem was just the idler tire that was worn then as it is shutting down the tape slack would be pulled back up so there would be no tape slack to catch and be broken.

      1. I think he meant the horrifying sssshhh sound the deck makes as it eats your tape and the tape slack wouldn’t be taken up necessitating careful surgery to extract the tape (watch the doors!) without damaging the tape or embedding particles in the VCR head.

        This happened a lot with cheap tapes or when a tape was abused, especially during the peak years. Sometimes the takeup wheel would get jammed causing too much tape to be taken out. The VCR’s retraction wouldn’t be enough to gather up the mess and it would eject the tape with a bit of tape hanging out.

        I learned how to remove mostly rental tapes out of decks because way too many people can’t take care of tapes (or any media for that matter) even if you tried to pay them.

  3. Another factor which propelled VHS was that JVC was able to compromise their format quality and record 4 hours on a cart, which made it possible to record and time-shift an entire football game. In the early days when recorders were still a pricey luxury item, this was one of the killer apps and Sony’s slowness to follow suit lost them a lot of market share.

    1. Yeah, those were godawful. I think the tape speeds were marketed SP, LP and EP? 2, 4 and I think 6 hours? I think some VCRs had an XP mode too. The video quality was abysmal at the higher densities. I remember cursing whomever opted to record a rare(?) Macross video using the 4 hour mode since it cut off at a crucial point. I never did find the original film to finish watching.

      I owned a VCR that had dynamic record mode. The interesting “feature” was the ability to stretch the recording time while recording. So if I was recording a game and it looked like it was going to go into overtime, I could hit the button to switch to the “longer” record modes. I tried it once or twice but older VCRs would go crazy recalibrating itself as the tape changed midstream.

  4. I still own a few decks. My favorite is a Sony Betamax model SL-HF900 Superbeta editing deck.
    When VHS players first came out and were $1200, the store I worked at would get 6 to 8 a month and would sell out as soon as the doors opened.

    1. Ah… Video 2000, worst of both worlds in many ways. Philips/Grundig’s attempt to out Sony, Sony, but they too had their eye on the wrong ball. Video 2000 was not bad for freeze framing the interesting moments though… Then there is U-Matic the grand daddy of them all.. and arguably the best of all in terms of fidelity, hence its use by professional broadcasters. All gone now… and soon to join them, in a few years time, so will go your fancy new iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.

        1. My phones usually last years, but I don’t sit on them, drop them, or throw them in some sort of drunken tantrum. Usually the battery stops holding a full charge. Even then you can get a replacement. They’ve all been fairly cheap, too.

          1. You must be from Finland, or not an average American. The “average American” replaces their phone every two years.. At least the VHS format lasted a bit longer than that.

            http://www.phonearena.com/news/Americans-replace-their-cell-phones-every-2-years-Finns–every-six-a-study-claims_id20255

            … so on average… my statement of a few years was pretty accurate. Give it 10 years in the kitchen drawer, so the PIN is well and truly forgotten, and allegedly even the CIA wont be able to recover your videos…

            VHS tapes on the other hand… well.. you *might* still be able to play those…. assuming you can find an antique shop with a working VHS player of course.

          2. I repaired my flip phone several times. Once i got a new ribbon cable, anther time I replaced the screen. I even bought an exact replacement of my first flip phone (no camera) just to piss my son off. I guess with his getting a new phone every 9 months, and me keeping a phone together with duct tape, we still managed to keep the two-year national average intact.

          3. Same with me. Though normally after 3 yrs there were successors so much better, that I changed for a new one and sold or gave as present to a friend the old one.

      1. i thought it was superiour in many ways, better quality, video on both sides (flip the tape like regular audio cassettes etc. ). The reason VHS won was because phillips didn’t want any porn on their system… the VHS crowd did, and hence sold a lot more… Video 2000 lost the battle and died quickly…

    2. Got it. Getting the machines to work after 30+ years is a bitch, but when they do, they can pull off some awesome tricks (slowmo backwards without the jerk effect VHS has or picture perfect picture search at 7x speed).
      Only the picture quality doesn’t get better as the recorders age, most of my V2000 recorders are slightly below VHS quality (although they were clearly superior when they were new). Getting spare parts is near impossible, especially for mechanical parts *cough video heads cough*

          1. For [Senile Data Systems] it would probably be better to use a tape as most of what he has, has probably drifted out over the years.

            Aligning to a known good reference tape is the easier alignment method most commonly used and has reasonable results.

            Correct alignment was done by dinging around the circuit boards with a CRO and aligning the mech while testing frequency, amplitude, phase of the test points against good meters and reference generators. I always kept one unit aligned this way and used it to make reference tapes.

    3. My secondary (high) school standardised on V2000. This was handy for teachers, because the enormous players (about two feet wide) could be directed to a particular programme on a tape by typing in a four-digit code, but it made using commercial rental tapes impossible. In Higher (ages 16-17) English I remember a classmate bringing in his home VCR so that we could watch a video-shop rental “Hamlet”. The school could only play back what it had recorded off the air. Soon after that the V2000 machines were retired and replaced with VHS.

  5. Later VHS decks used to store audio data together with video data (using some fm encoding AFAIK). This made for an audio quality somewhere between studio analogue tapes and CD.

    I still have some albums “ripped” on VHS tape.
    Which gives away an interploation vector concerning my age.

    1. VHS mono or regular stereo uses linear analog tracks along an edge of the tape. Hi-Fi stereo is intermixed with the video using the video heads.

      Professional and studio VTRs added timecode in two ways. Linear timecode used (IIRC) the mono audio track. Vertical Interval Time Code (VITC) was inserted into the vertical blanking interval of the video signal with the video heads.

      The usual procedure to prep tapes for editing use was to “blackstripe” them – recording a solid black image with timecode on the entire tape. Cameras and camcorders loaded with blackstriped tapes would synch to the pre-recorded timecode. Then in the editing studio, computer controlled VTRs would lock onto the time code for frame accurate capture and techniques such as assemble and insert editing.

      To do an assemble edit, segments of video would be captured (usually in a low quality draft mode due to 2 gig file size limits) and the editor would mark the start and end cut points. Once the edit was arranged to suit, with effects and transitions setup, the editor would do a full quality capture. The computer would automatically start, stop, fast forward etc to record just the pieces of video requested – prompting the editor when to change tapes. (The real expensive setups had auto changers.)

      Next step was to render all the effects then “print” back to a clean, blackstriped tape for duplication or broadcast.

      Insert editing worked similar. A segment of video would be captured, trimmed, effects etc done then “printed” back to the original tape in exactly the same location – or a segment of video from one or more other tapes could be recorded onto an exact location of a tape that already had video recorded, if it had timecode recorded.

      1. Video editing I used, as a young’n, involved 2 expensive servo VHS decks, with a video monitor, and some primitive computer controlling them through a control panel. 7-segment LEDs abound. You didn’t get to see the *video* on the *computer*! Then lots of whirring when you press “go”.

      2. Hi-Fi recording used a separate pair of heads and recorded the audio in between the video tracks, at least on VHS, IIRC Beta machines would record the audio using the video heads (Which is why on certain models you could add hi-fi audio with an add-on unit that attached under the VCR). Some VCRs had 7 or 8 heads on the drum, 4 video heads (two were used for normal SP recording/playback, the other two were used for the lower speed recording/playback) two hi-fi audio heads, plus one or two “flying” erase heads that allowed for seamless editing and seamless changes between programs)

    2. That was a very interesting recording method! The audio was Frequency Modulated and recorded onto the tape before the video (same drum, audio heads ahead of video heads by 90 degrees – I think). Then the video was recorded *over the top* of the audio.
      They used several tricks…. the audio/video head gaps were misaligned to give a difference in record azimuth. The head gap for the audio heads was much larger and therefore the signal penetrated further into the tape. When the video was put on top it was hence much ‘shallower’ and left a good deal of the lower depth audio (FM) signal there. The azimuth trick lets the heads differentiate.

      Audio quality was excellent, but sometimes particular video images would interfere with the audio signal, corrupting it (adding artefacts), and the head switching also would also cause problems.

  6. One of the major reasons for the death of Betamax, in the UK at least, was that the rental companies almost without esclusion, rented VHS machines only. Most people rented, so the film rental shops concentrated on that format and it spiralled.

    1. That’s a good point and another line of nostalgia; just how many people rented a unit from Rediffusion etc. Even the telly itself, I think most of my school friends families rented their TV (and this is not just lower income families but right across the board).

    1. Digital VHS or D-VHS failed to take off, mostly due to dumb decisions by the companies that developed it, and the TV and movie industry who tried to hog tie it with anti-copying restrictions so you could record broadcast TV to D-VHS but then couldn’t make a direct digital copy of the tape.

  7. I still have my first SVHS vcr from 1989 the JVC5500 and still like new and works great still. Spent a lot of money on SVHS decks. Still got a multi SVHS,DV deck plus a DV,HDD,DVDR deck too under my tv. Got a few high end SVHS decks too. They was good at the time and we must thank Video tape decks for good times back then. Still have a laserdisc player too with lots of music discs you just can’t get on DVD,etc. DVHS was good for hours of top recording. Also it done HD 1080 output. Shame that did not take of because it could hold more than a disc. I still have tapes to put on disc. Might get it done one day. VHS and beta good childhood memories for me.

    1. Yes, childhood memories, but times are changing and a harddisk (or even µSD card) can hold so much more than DVD or DVHS. I also have a VHS- bought at the end of the era when I moved into my apartment in 1998 – but more than 10yrs unused. And VHS over composite to a 3m beamer-picture – no, I do not like to watch this kind of quality any more after getting used to full-HD.

    1. Some kind of clever mechanism to store a terabyte, at least, on a standard 3 hour tape.

      The people who make computer tape backup drives have managed to advance from 40MB or so to terabytes, still on the same tape cartridge, or same size tape cartridge at least. So, whatever they’ve done, we’ll do that.

      Then we’ll record multiple MPEG transport streams, and have a VCR that can simultaneously play 5 HD channels at once, from the same tape.

      You do the data processing part, someone else can work on the mechanics. I’ll er, set the timer.

  8. Here’s the “entertainment” corner of my living room in London in early 1982. http://i.imgur.com/BnnjvkE.jpg

    One other use for 3/4″ and 1/2″ VCR’s in the 1970’s was for digital audio recording. I remember in the mid-70’s going to a demo of the Sony F1 which they were developing with BBC R&D. It used a 3/4″ U-matic deck to record digital audio, and they were comparing a recording from a classical concert between the F1 and an analogue multi-track. Some of the techniques were eventually patented and ended up as the basis of DAT.

    1. Apparently the bit-rate of audio CD, 44KHz at 16-bits worth, is exactly defined by how much data was able to be stored on the video tape-based systems that were used for it’s mastering during development. Those are quite probably the video recorders in question.

  9. Sony made a few really dumb business decisions that helped Betamax lose the format war. One was in hardware licensing. Other companies wanting to make Betamax equipment could chose a lower cost license if they bought core mechanical and electronic VCR parts from Sony – or they could pay a higher license fee just to use the designs and manufacture or source parts from other than Sony.

    The only company I know of that chose the higher price route was NEC. I had an NEC V-70 Betamax VCR that didn’t contain a single part made by Sony. It had 40+ knobs, buttons, sliders and connectors encrusting the front and back panels, plus it had a pair of analog VU meters for tweaking the audio recording levels. It’s the only VCR I’ve ever seen that had a rechargeable NiCd battery backup for the clock and recording timer. It also had a mirror that flipped down when the tape was loaded, and a light inside so one could look through the smoke tinted door to visually check the amount of tape remaining if you didn’t trust the digital counter on the vacuum fluorescent display. There was also an optional digital PCM audio adapter (which I didn’t have) that enabled up to 24 hours of hi-fi stereo audio to be recorded to a tape.

    And the V-70 wasn’t their top model, there was as least one higher, the V-71, but aside from the model number I don’t know what additional stuff it had.

    In contrast, the Betamax camcorder NEC sold was merely a Sony made one with NEC put on in place of Sony. Unlike so many Sony made POS Beta VCRs, that camcorder was very good.

    Sony made a lot of absolutely awful Betamax VCRs. Some models had a 100% failure rate due to one or more fragile mechanical components that *would* break, no matter what, with normal use. The players they made for the rental market were especially bad. We rented both VHS and Beta several times before buying a VCR (a Magnavox VHS front loader with 13 little TV tuners under a door on top). Why my folks went with VHS was because without fail the Beta machines we rented had terrible picture quality.

    JVC’s licensing was less expensive and less restrictive. Their plan was to bury Betamax with sheer volume of VCRs and tapes in the market. With a more open license, VHS machine manufacturers didn’t have to buy parts from JVC to save money and could build better players for the rental market at lower prices.

    As for the porn market, it’s obvious they would go with whatever technology cost the least, and JVC didn’t care *who* used their tech or *what* was put on the tapes, as long as more people used it than they did Sony’s.

      1. Yup, good ol’ Sony. Thing is, Sony make so much stuff, and are so huge, that even if nobody else uses their data storage formats, there’ll still be enough demand to bring it into high street shops. The Playstation alone counts for a big chunk of that.

  10. Has HaD done a retro article on video tape and how it’s the reason why audio CDs use 44.1Khz sampling rate instead of 48Khz?

    The reason why 44.1Khz is that’s precisely how many digital audio samples per second would fit onto U-Matic PAL video tapes. The first audio CD mastering systems were bog-standard PAL U-Matic video recorders with a PCM recording and playback adapter plugged in. Similar to the various devices sold in the 80’s and 90’s for using VHS tapes for computer backup, the digital audio adapters stored data onto the U-Matic 3/4″ tape as analog pulses. To play back the audio the PCM adapter read those pulses and produced a digital output.

    Had the video tape been capable of storing 42 or 40 or whatever other nicely even number, that would be the sample rate used for audio CDs.

    Some will go on about Nyquist frequencies, Redbook audio is a ‘consumer format’ so it was deliberately made lower quality than professional 48Khz gear etc. It’s all bull-puckey. 44.1Khz came 100% from the technical limitations of the choice made to adapt an existing analog technology instead of inventing an all new, all digital system for recording, editing and producing duplication masters for audio CDs. The all digital DLT (Digital Linear Tape) system for audio CD master tapes came along later, but due to the U-Matic legacy and installed base of CD players had to stick with the existing standard.

  11. This era represents a lot more to me.

    I repaired VCR’s for many years starting around the time of the home entertainment boom.

    The early VCR’s were expensive, reliable and very robust. Servicing was far less frequent but a little more expensive per service.

    Then it happened! People went from buying quality stuff to buying cheap stuff.

    VCR’s were then much more plastic, poor quality mechanical components, unreliable and required frequent servicing and some of the service costs were prohibitively expensive and the VCR was then written off after a shorter life.

    1. I’d pick late 90s early 00s VCRs as keepers though, they stopped using belts and went to gears… though still the pinch rollers to worry about degrading. What I remember about older ones, was too many belts, too many adjustments.

      1. I remember one model (NV something or NVG something) of National or National Panasonic that had one very expensive issue.

        It had a mechanical lock that prevented the tape load function when there was no tape present. The electronics had no means to detect if a tape was present until it was loaded.

        So if you put a tape in the load mech and pressed it just hard enough to start the loading and then held or removed the tape, the mode mech with mechanically lock while the electronics continued to drive the load motor smashing about $60 worth of plastic gears.

        The mode mechanics were new different. It had a planetary gear drive. I smashed three sets of gears learning how to aligned them correctly.

        So a moments indecision while loading a tape cost customers a considerable amount.

  12. The ZX Microdrive cartridges supplied by Sinclair Research for use on ZX Spectrum and Spectrum 128 (and as far as I know the ill-fated QL) used cut-down video tape for data storage (approx 85Kb on 200ft of tape)

  13. I still have a VCR somewhere because i have some old tapes, but no idea if the thing still works after not being used for many years. I don’t have a TV at the moment (neither a video in on the PC) so i can’t test. The real PITA is when you try to “copy” these tapes to a PC, f**ing interlacing! This crap is even still present in the HDMI specs (iirc), wtf??

  14. When I got out of college in the mid-1980s, I worked on F-16 fighter projects and occasionally went to Edwards AFB for flight testing. At the time, the airborne instrumentation was based on the older technologies. The radar video output (analog NTSC) was recorded on a relatively compact U-Matic recorder. And the data was recorded on an enormous multi-track analog recorder. Finding space on such a compact (and packed) airframe must have been difficult. The instrumentation recorder was mounted on a shock isolated mount behind the ejection seat. This equipment all had to work in conditions up to 9 g’s and sometimes severe vibration. After the flight, the instrumentation tape had to be run through a lengthy data reduction process and recorded onto standard 9-track tapes that could be mounted on a VAX computer for analysis. Then the 9-tracks and a copy of the U-Matic tape had to be shipped back to our offices. So it took more than a week before the engineers could begin to look at the test results. And because the tapes were so expensive, they would all need to be degaussed and shipped back to Edwards for re-use.

    Within a very few years, the video recording was switched to (much smaller) standard analog 8mm videotape machines. And the data recording was moved to a digital VHS recorder that used standard videotapes. The equipment was commercial grade, it was much smaller, and was mounted on simpler shock mounts. The VHS digital data recorders had higher bandwidth and the ability to record more channels of data. Best of all, the data reduction process was simpler as we were able to make use of these new IBM PCs that we were all getting on our desks. And spreadsheet programs made analysis and plotting of results much easier. Not long after that we were able to get both data and video copied onto recordable compact disks. The advent of the internet, and the ability to transmit the data back to the office were still several years away. All of this was enabled by the advancements in the commercial state of the art for video recorders.

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