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CED in the History of Media Technology


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Ampex VRX-1000 First Commercial VTR

1956: Ampex VRX-1000 - The First Commercial Videotape Recorder

Research on recording video on tape was begun in the early 1950's, and Bing Crosby Enterprises demonstrated a prototype system in 1951 that ran at 100 inches/second and had 16 minutes per reel. But the quality was poor. RCA demonstrated a better system in 1953, but it ran at 30 feet/second and only had 4 minutes per reel. The small Ampex Corporation came up with the ideas of using rotating heads, transverse scanning, and FM encoding which allowed broadcast quality recording at 15 inches/second and 90 minutes per reel.

The VRX-1000 set off a storm when it was demonstrated on April 14, 1956 at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters Convention, sending RCA and all the other VTR developers back to the drawing boards. The VRX-1000 was renamed the Mark IV and sold briskly at $50,000. Ampex dominated the broadcast VTR business for a number of years to come. The fourth person from the left in the above design team group photo is Ray Dolby, later of Dolby Laboratories fame.


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