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.

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Using videotape tape as a controller

Behold the Bodystick, an instrument built and demonstrated by [Erich Lesovsky]. It’s a bit like a string bass but instead of strings there is a strip of VHS tape. Apparently not all VHS tape will work, but if you have the right kind you can run voltage through it and then change the resistance with a touch of your finger. It seems that the hand not touching the tape needs to be touching a conductive pad, completing the circuit. The resulting resistance changes the oscillator values on a CD40106 CMOS chip. This project is a bit out there (just like [Erich’s] Mega-Tape-O-Phone), and in keeping with its peculiarity is the demo video after the break. Enjoy!

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