RCA Created Video Records Too Late

It is easy to find technology success stories: the PC, DVD, and cell phone are all well-documented tales. However, it is a little harder to find the stories behind the things that didn’t quite take off as planned. As the old saying goes, “success has many parents but failure is an orphan.” [Technology Connections] has a great video about RCA’s ill-fated SelectaVision video disc systems. You can see part one of the video below.

RCA started working on the system in the 1960s and had they brought it to market a bit earlier, it might have been a big win. After all, until the VCR most of us watched what was on TV when it was on and had no other options. You couldn’t record things or stream things and f you didn’t make it home in time for Star Trek, you simply missed that episode and hoped you’d get luckier when and if they reran it during the summer. That seems hard to imagine today, but a product like the SelectaVision when it was the only option could have really caught on. The problem was of course, that they waited too late to bring it to market. The video also makes the point that the system contained a few too many technical compromises.

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RCA Capacitive Electronic Disk

capacitive video disk

Although not a hack in the sense that it was made by a large corporation, check out this capacitive electronic disk that [danielbpm] wrote in about. Here’s a Wikipedia article about it, as well as a video (which didn’t embed correctly) about how it was made. The disks look like a typical audio record, and it was conceived of in 1964. A prototype was manufactured in 1972.

Unlike the more well-known Laserdisk format, the [Capacitive Electronic disk], or [CED] used an actual stylus to read the disks. Because of this, the [Wikipedia] article astutely points out that both systems were mutually incompatible. Somewhere there might have been a scratched Laserdisk next to the VCR with a sandwich stuffed in it. The computer with a broken coffee holder wouldn’t come for another few years.

Although it may have been a good format in it’s own right, like Betamax or HD-DVD, this system wasn’t destined to become the Blu-Ray player of it’s time.