Sunday, April 06, 2008

Popular Science in the 70's

Someone was tossing out some old magazines and passed them along to me. Great stuff! They are old copies of Popular Science (the What's New magazine), Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated (the How-To magazine) from the 1970's. I don't know about you, but I get a huge kick out of reading old science/tech magazines like these from the 50's, 60's and 70's.
Its lots of fun checking out what we did and didn't get from all the stuff they predicted. Its also a hoot seeing things such as this early "Take-Along Telephone" from the cover of the July 1973 issue, and this early Video Disc Player from the cover of the February 1977 issue..
I really like the two rows of number buttons on the phone. And the Disc player looks great. I wonder if I can hook that to my HD TV?
From the Feb '77 issue: "Sometime this year (1977), TV viewers in selected areas of the country should be able to schedule their own shows in an entirely new way. They'll select movies, musical performances, or other material on video discs, slip the discs into players wired to their receiver's antenna terminals, and push a button to watch the show.
A long list of glittering new video players has been promised, post-poned, or introduced in recent years, only to fade from sight. But there are definite signs that at least two major worldwide organizations with the financial muscle and marketing know-how to succeed will begin selling their video-disc players regionally in 1977.
One of them, RCA, is already field-testing a fer hundred of its capacitance-sensing SelectaVision disc players. N.V. Philips, the Dutch firm that brought us the standard audio cassette, and MCA Inc., an American entertainment-oriented firm, also plan to offer an optical video-disc system this year.
The latest price estimates: about $500 for the player, and $10 to $18 for a disc or set of discs.
There's even a possibility that a Japanese licensee of a British and German disc venture, the grooved disc TED system [PS, Nov. '74], could be marketing disc players, too. Players for 10-minute TED discs have been available in Germany since 1975, although only for European TV-signal standards. Sales have been poor. A TED changer that handlers 12 discs was recently shown. Spinning on the sidelines are other disc systems still under development.
Both the RCA and Philips/MCA players will appear in stores just when new home video cassette recorders [PS, Dec '75], video games [PS, Nov. '76], and pay-cable programming are teaching viewers that their TV receivers can easily display something other than fixed-time broadcast fare.
What's the difference about the new disc hardware and programming? After operating both the RCA and Philips/MCA players, trying some amazing manipulations of TV images, and listening to stereo hi-fi TV sound, I have found that the new machines offer spectacular gains in performance compared with other home program sources.
Stamping out tomes of discs at low cost is the biggest advantage of the new medium. Both Philips/MCA and RCA expect to offer a broad selection of discs when their players appear. MCA, which will manufacture most U.S. discs for the Magnavox-built player, plans 1000 albums initially.
MCA discs will include new and old films, ballet, opera, theater, sports, how-to and children's programs, and documentaries. MCA can also make a thin flexible disc that might be inserted in periodicals. Discs may also be distributed as entire magazines, catalogs, or talking encyclopedias.
Also a variety of independent companies will add other special interest discs to catalogs. One firm, Visiondisc Corp. of New York, for example, planned to tape last year's Christmas services and works of art at a large cathedral for transfer to discs.
Sounds truly exciting doesn't it... I can't wait!

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