Having a fondness for old and obscure audio and video media formats, [Techmoan] recently revisited the Philips Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) format introduced in 1992. Despite being billed as the successor to Philips’ original analog Compact Cassette format from 1963, DCC was short-lived and slipped away after only four years in 1996. [Techmoan] obtained a unique cassette that purports to be the only known published DCC tape which contains embedded song lyrics that scroll on the DCC player’s tiny screen in sync with the music — “Size Isn’t Everything” by the Bee Gees from 1993. Sure enough, he is able to demonstrate this in the video down below the break.
But, there’s more. For reasons unclear, this only happens on on this one Bee Gees’ album. But it turns out that many DCC tapes did in fact include lots of other metadata, and sometimes lyrics as well. But these were only visible using an unreleased Philips system called Interactive Text Transmission System (ITTS). It just so happens that the folks at the DCC Museum obtained a Philips prototype ITTS box and have been gradually hacking the protocol.
[Techmoan] demonstrates a modernized prototype version from Germany designed by [Thomas Falkner] called the ITTS video box NG. Using this, he runs through a bunch of DCC tapes from his collection, and finds a significant number of them were published with lyrics and metadata, presumably in anticipation of as ITTS launch. It’s interesting to see how some publishers spent a lot of effort to format this information and others seemed to just copy / paste over the bare minimum.
The more elaborate pages resemble what you might see on your teletext screens back in the day. On those albums that do have lyrics, the presentation can be different, as well. Lyrics from the Bee Gees album appear like text scrolling up on a terminal, with current phrases shown in yellow. Another album’s lyrics can be scrolled in different peculiar ways, including a one-word-at-a-time mode.
If this kind of historical dive into technology interests you, check out the talk that [Jac] and [Ralf] gave at the 2022 Supercon about DCC, and this video from 2018 where [Ralf] digs deeper into this topic. Also, [Jac] has some more recent details on hacking the protocol posted over on his Hackaday.io project page. If you want a more basic introduction to DCC, [Techmoan] introduced this format some years ago on his YouTube channel.